|Writing on the Wall
Author: unemployed PM
The exploits of a lost and confused boy. Style. Oneshot. Rated for language.Rated: Fiction T - English - Kyle B. & Stan M. - Words: 7,131 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 119 - Follows: 4 - Published: 05-20-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4267214
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
What Stan and Kyle had was rare. Hell, they knew it was rare. How many people could say that they had found someone who would come back to you after a stupid Guitar Hero fight, get you back from San Francisco, or offer you a kidney without a second thought? Someone with whom they could do the stupid, pointless stuff that teenage boys did, who they could see and work with every day and not get sick of, who they could never run out of things to say to, who made them realize that they never had to ever feel truly alone? Because that's what Stan and Kyle had. They joked often that, when put into that context, it was as though they were a couple.
In high school, cliques formed. Friendships changed. But Stan and Kyle still remained that dynamic duo, unstoppable and indisputable. Sometimes, when Stan and Wendy managed some alone time at a restaurant or in each other's rooms, his girlfriend would joke about Kyle being her competition. To this, Stan would laugh loud enough to be considered awkward.
But sometimes Wendy wasn't really joking. Because Wendy was good at math, and she knew that the amount of time Stan spent with Kyle was not proportional to amount of time Stan spent with her. And like Wendy, Kyle was also good at math, and he knew that such a large amount of time spent with anyone would increase the chances of…something happening.
It had been like this since elementary school for Kyle. Because no one had what he and Stan had, Kyle had nothing to compare this odd feeling with. The one that would materialize, snake-like, slithering up from Kyle's stomach and into his chest at certain moments. When he and Stan played video games, sitting closer than friends do. When he and Stan made eye contact after a particularly good laugh, and let the look linger longer than friends do.
But that's just the way really, really close friends feel, right?
Mr. Broflovski was reaching inside his locker for his books when he sensed someone standing very close behind him.
"Go fuck yourself, fatass," Kyle said in a dull voice.
"I – I'm fat?"
Kyle turned around, then jumped backwards into the lockers. Butters had been standing no more than an inch behind him.
"You're not fat, I just thought you were Cartman and being a dumbass," Kyle muttered, "but jeez Butters, what the hell are you doing?"
"I have to tell you something," the second boy said quickly.
"Uh…okay. Go for it."
There was something urgent and distressed in Butters's face that made Kyle think suddenly –
He's going tell me he's gay.
"I got a girlfriend!"
"Really?" Kyle blurted.
As he watched Butters's face morph from distraught to ecstatic, Kyle could not explain that unexpected thought. But he forgot about it as Butters began shaking from excitement.
"Yeah! She's great! And, and she really likes me too! Oh, Kyle, I just had to tell someone – I want to tell the world, but I have a test next period so I have to do that first – but you were standing here, and I just had to tell you!"
"Who's the lucky girl?"
"Teri, the new girl, it's perfect 'cause she hasn't been here long enough to see me make a f-fool of myself – "
"That's cool Butters, I'm happy for you."
"You know, I-I thought I'd never get a girlfriend," Butters mused, "I'd thought I'd be the last fella to get one, and I'd be the only fella in the whole school without a girlfriend – phew!"
Pause. Butters narrowed his eyes.
"Kyle…have you had yourself a girlfriend yet?"
Kyle kept his head buried in his locker. "No."
Token, whose locker was the next over, shifted slightly. Even though he couldn't see it, Kyle could feel Token's eyes on him.
"How come?" Butters asked.
"'Cause he's a fag," said Cartman plainly as he approached his locker.
"I am not, wideload," Kyle growled.
"…Goes the fag."
"Shut the fuck up!"
"Sorry, I don't understand fagspeak."
Token and Butters did not argue with the bell's call when it rang. Once you had seen one Kyle v. Cartman, you had seen them all.
"DON'T CALL ME A FAG, CARTMAN!" Kyle shrieked, his voice cracking a bit.
This seemed to surprise both of them.
"Well well well, getting a little defensive, aren't we Kyle?" Cartman cooed in a dangerous voice, "And just why exactly haven't you had a girlfriend, dear Kyle? Is it because none of them like you…or is it because you don't like them?"
Kyle growled as he slammed his locker shut. The worst part was that he couldn't even accuse Cartman of never having had a girlfriend. Because he had landed one, actually, however short lived it might have been. Tenth grade. Kyle and Stan wouldn't have believed it if they hadn't seen it with their own eyes. But there Cartman had been, eating Shakey's pizza with none other than Shelley Marsh. Stan vowed that if his sister and Cartman got married and he became related to Cartman, he would throw himself in front of a train. Kyle made him feel better by assuring him that one of them must have drugged the other – whether it was Cartman or Shelley who had been drugged, they couldn't be sure. The "relationship" was broken up shortly after, with Cartman telling a disgusted and enraged Stan that Shelley just couldn't satisfy him.
"Is it because you long for a long one?" Cartman continued, smirking, "Do you give girls the shaft because you need the shaft?"
"You know what I think, asshat? I think you're just insecure!"
"Wow. Wow Kyle. Do you want to call PBS and thank them for that message, or should I?"
"You're just insecure because you can't get someone yourself! Someone like, I dunno," Kyle rambled angrily, and picked the first name that popped into his mind, "someone like Wendy!"
It was as though the entire world had quieted. Nothing moved or breathed. All the color had left Cartman's face as he stood there, in the empty hallway, staring blankly at an alarmed Kyle.
Kyle blinked. He hadn't been serious. He had, in fact, been talking out of his ass. But the look on Cartman's face told him that he had been talking shit and spit out some gold. Could it be…
"Cartman…" Kyle said, slowly, "Do you like Wendy?"
"Oh my God. You like Wendy."
Before Kyle could say anything else, he found himself slammed up against the lockers.
"You. Tell. No one," Cartman whispered, clenching Kyle's jacket.
"Oh Cartman…Cartman Cartman Cartman…" Kyle whispered. There was a fire in his eyes as he smiled at the large boy's frightened features. After all these years, he had finally found it.
This time it was Cartman's turn to shriek.
"YOU TELL NO ONE!"
"For a price. You see, Cartman, after what you've done to me, you have to pay."
Kyle took his seat next to Stan after entering class five minutes late and accepting his detention slip.
"Dude, where were you?" Stan whispered.
"I got held up at my locker."
"What are smiling about?"
"Ah, nothing. It's just a great day to be alive," Kyle said.
Stan stared at his friend for a moment before shaking his head and muttering, "You're a man of mystery, Mr. Broflovski."
When it came to girls, Kyle was a machine. But not in the same way Kenny was. He didn't go through them, one after another, well-oiled in more ways than one. No, Kyle was a machine in that everything he did was cold and automatic. He did and said what he knew he was supposed to without feeling it. He cheered Kenny on as he rounded third base, he agreed with other guys about that hot chick from Transformers, and nodded appreciatively when Craig showed him the latest triple x website.
Like most boys his age – or any age, really – Kyle enjoyed looking at girls. He actually found them quite attractive. This, he found encouraging. Girls were just so…organic. The soft features, the large eyes, their graceful movements. He enjoyed them the way one enjoys a beautiful painting. You can get as close as you want, but you don't have to touch it to appreciate it. This, Kyle did not find so encouraging.
Kyle told himself it would be okay, because one day he would wake up and suddenly like girls. It would be that simple. He would wake up and want to pursue girls, to feel their curves, to meet ecstasy with them the way guys were supposed to, the normal way. But for being the normal way, it certainly didn't feel normal. Nothing about girls felt normal to Kyle. No girl ever left him wanting more. Their skin was like plastic beneath his wiry fingers. Lifeless.
You certainly couldn't knock Kyle for trying. Oh, how he tried. When Bebe took his hand in hers to lead him behind the equipment shed during gym class, he followed. Her lips strung kisses along neck as her fingers raked his curls. As her mouth moved behind his ear, Kyle took the opportunity to check his watch.
"I've wanted this…"
Her face resurfaced in front of his.
"You and me, stupid," Bebe snapped.
"Oh," Kyle said, "Right. Gotcha. Keep doing…what you were doing."
Bebe's frown tilted into a seductive grin. Her hand crept lower, lower still, until it found what it was looking for. She leaned into him and writhed. Kyle spit out a few strands of frizzy blonde hair that had landed in his mouth. Shouldn't he be doing something with her to reciprocate? What did they normally do – touch the chick's breasts? Yeah, that seemed right. Mechanically, Kyle lifted his hands and attached them to Bebe's chest.
"Ow," Bebe said, surprised.
"Uh, what did I do?"
"You just…you just kinda, I dunno, hit my boobs."
Her hand emerged from his pants. She looked into his face.
"Kyle, is something wrong?"
The snow was already beginning to drip from the boots Kyle had kicked off in the foyer.
"Hey Ma," Kyle said as he passed his mother en route to the refrigerator.
"How was school today, bubby?" she asked. Kyle had barely opened his mouth to answer when she continued, "Something came in the mail for you today!"
When her son turned around she thrust a thick envelope into his still gloved hands. Kyle turned it over and looked at the return address. California Institute of Technology.
"You got in!" Sheila shrieked, engulfing her son in a smothering hug.
"You open my mail now?" Kyle muttered.
His mother released him from her grip as she gushed, "I couldn't help it! We're going to need to take out some loans of course, but I think we'll manage. Oh, I'm so excited! Wait until your father finds out his son is going to be in the freshman class of Caltech – "
"I'm not going."
" – you can fill out the forms and we'll send them in tomor – whatwhatWHAT?"
Kyle folded the envelope shut. "I said, I'm not going."
"Very funny, Kyle," Sheila said in a voice that made it clear that she didn't find it very funny at all.
"I told you. I'm going to Boulder. Stan and I already talked about it, we're gonna room together, and it'll be close, and cheaper –"
"Don't be stupid bubby, Caltech is a much better school, you'll go places after college. And think, you can make some new friends – "
"I don't need new friends Ma, Stan's fine!"
"Kyle, I really do think you need to make new friends."
Ike came into the kitchen to watch his brother and mother scream themselves hoarse for an hour.
Kyle picked pieces of bread from his sandwich and rolled them into compact little balls as Stan bemoaned the Broncos' performance at lunch.
"He wasted his timeouts, I'm telling you," Stan concluded, then cast a glance at Kyle, "Hey dude, what did that sandwich ever do to you?"
"I'm not hungry."
"Give it," Cartman said through a mouthful of chips. He made a grab for it, but Kyle snatched the sandwich away.
He tossed the sandwich to Kenny, who snatched it out of the air and tipped his hat in Kyle's direction.
"Why'd you give a perfectly good sandwich to Kenny McPoorChick?" Cartman barked.
"'Cause he's really fucking hungry," Stan muttered, watching in awe as Kenny inhaled the sandwich in three bites.
"Yeah, and his ass doesn't spill over edge of the seat yet," Kyle pointed out, leaning forward to gesture toward Cartman's struggling chair.
Cartman grabbed Kyle by the nose and shoved him away, snarling, "Ay, get that huge, hooked honker out of my face before you poke my eye out you fucking J– "
Kyle raised an eyebrow at him.
" – j-jolly old pal of mine. You're cool. Seriously," Cartman recovered.
Stan and Kenny stared at him, slack-jawed. The last bit of sandwich fell from Kenny's open mouth. Kyle smirked.
Stan had called Kyle to make sure he was going to Clyde's party. Twice. Stan never went to a party without his "partner in crime." Sure, Stan liked the other boys of South Park, and he got along with most of them very well. He could have fun with them if he wanted. But he liked having Kyle there, because with Kyle, Stan didn't have to worry about awkward pauses or failed jokes. Arguments weren't lost when Kyle was there to back him up. Stories were a lot funnier when they were told in tandem. In short, Stan Marsh felt cooler with Kyle Broflovski by his side.
As was always the case in a small town with nothing to do, "party" was another word for "drinking in the basement" which was another phrase for "increasing our chances to get with chicks." Descending into the dank basement of Clyde's house had become a pastime for the seniors of South Park High. Kyle arrived with The Pack – Kenny, Stan, Wendy, Cartman, and Bebe. Both Cartman and Kyle stole glances at dark hair as they made their way down the stairs.
"Keystone again, Clyde?" Stan moaned, frowning as he examined the cooler.
"If I knew I was drinking piss I would've stayed at home. It comes out of my dick too," Kyle quipped, making Stan laugh.
"I'll give you the stuff that comes out of my ass if you two bitches don't quit your whining," Clyde snapped, shoving cans into their hands.
The way Wendy was perched on Stan's lap made Kyle drink can number one. The way her tongue snaked into Stan's mouth made him drink can number two. The way Stan kissed her back made Kyle drink cans three and four. The way Cartman looked at Wendy made Kyle hand him a can. The two boys glanced at each other, once, then returned to their own miserable thoughts.
"Fuck you, Sun!" Kyle mumbled into a pillow.
Kyle Broflovski woke up to what felt like a dozen hammers battering the inside of his skull. And he swore that damn sun was brighter than normal. He swung an arm out to catch the clock on his nightstand and check the time. But his nightstand wasn't there.
He shot upright, decided that that was far too fast to sit up when you had a hangover, and flopped back down again as the room swayed. Groaning, Kyle waited for the room to stand still. When it stopped spinning in circles, he was able to take in his surroundings. He was on the floor, but this wasn't in his room. But this room was still familiar.
That's because it was Stan's.
"Dude, it's about time."
And that was Stan's voice.
Kyle craned his neck and squinted, since that was as far as his eyes would allow him to open them. Stan was sitting on the foot of his bed, staring down at his friend with eyes that Kyle had never seen before.
"Dude, what happened…what time is it…" Kyle muttered, pressing a hand to his forehead to keep it from bursting open.
"It's two thirty in the afternoon," Stan said, "It took me forever to walk you back here last night – you kept trying to talk to the snow on the way back."
Kyle groaned again. At least Stan had the brains to not let him go back to his own house. O, ye shall fear the wrath of Sheila Broflovski should she find her underage son intoxicated.
"Kyle…do you remember last night? At all?" Stan asked in a voice to match his eyes.
"What? No. I don't remember anything. Why, did something happen?"
"Uh, nah, nothing major, just stupid shit like Kenny dancing on a table with Clyde's cat."
But Kyle had lied. Kyle had remembered everything from last night's party. He remembered his lips finding another beer after seeing Wendy drag Stan out of the room, though he couldn't explain why this bothered him so much. Maybe it was all the booze.
Kyle remembered Stan, laughing as he emerged from the din sometime later. The scent of alcohol wafted off of him and mixed with Kyle's personal fumes as he collided with his friend.
"Dude…dude…" Stan laughed.
"What?" Kyle giggled back.
"Dude!" Stan said again, grabbing Kyle's shoulders.
"What?" Kyle reached out for Stan's shoulders.
Stan's drunken laughter infected Kyle as well, who was too far gone to ward off the disease. They laughed in each other's faces, ignoring the stench. Kyle couldn't seem to clear the fuzz from his brain. The music was too loud. The room was too hot. Kyle was too gone. He lunged forward and pressed his slobbery, grinning mouth against Stan's. He pulled away.
"Super best friends!" Kyle slurred before losing his balance and falling on his ass.
Kyle remembered all of this. That didn't stop him from lying to Stan, because there was one thing that he couldn't seem to remember, and that thing was the look on Stan's face after he had pulled away. But even though Kyle couldn't remember, Stan's face right now gave him a pretty good guess.
Like most small, blue collar American towns, South Park bred a sort of ideology. An unspoken set of rules for boys and girls to follow. There was a difference between the people on TV telling you it was alright to be a certain way, and actually doing it in real life. Because the people on TV aren't surrounding you, staring at you, talking about you, every day.
Stan followed the rules perfectly. The every man's man. Good looking. Athletic. Pretty girlfriend. Sensible. Respectable. All American.
Maybe that's why Stan didn't talk to Kyle so much after the party. Maybe that's why Kyle tried Bebe again.
Kyle wondered why he couldn't follow the rules. Then he decided that maybe he could make it look like he was following the rules. No one would ever know.
It had been thirteen weeks, four days, and nine hours since Eric Cartman had called Kyle Broflovski a Jew or any derivative thereof. Nor had he made a single reference to his, or Stan's, sexuality. He had not called Kyle's mother a bitch or his father a "Viagra-chomper." He had not plotted against Kyle, he had not performed anything ill against Kyle, and he had not followed through on any scheme that Kyle found inappropriate. He also washed and buffed Kyle's car once a week. In return, Kyle had not breathed one word in regards to Cartman's super secret crush on Wendy Testaburger. After all, it had been thirteen weeks, four days, and nine hours since the confrontation at the lockers, and these were the terms of the agreement.
Sure, Kyle could have gone farther. He could have made Cartman his personal slave. He could have made him chew dog shit. He could have done any number of things. But Kyle realized that the thing that would eat away Cartman the slowest and most painfully was to take the fuel from the fire – ie, picking on Kyle.
But in the weeks following The Party, as Kyle referred to it in his mind, he had spent more time with Cartman. And as Kyle observed the fatass in all his epic fatassery, he couldn't believe that he had not noticed Cartman's feelings for Wendy before. Cartman gave her the special honor of being picked on by him more than any other girl in their class. He never forwent a single opportunity to argue with her, to distract her in the library, or slip pieces of bacon into her locker (Kyle could not explain the last one). Also, having her entire weekly schedule written on the back of his notebook was an obvious, albeit creepy, clue.
But he let her win the arguments. He made her laugh in the library. And when he picked on her, it was because her hair was too shiny or she looked "too hot for a dirty hippie." In fact, every moment Stan wasn't with her, Cartman was. Maybe that's why Kyle had never noticed – he had always been the reason Stan wasn't with her.
And if there was anything that could've been more slow and painful for Cartman other than not being able to annoy Kyle, it was wanting the girl he couldn't have.
And Kyle felt sorry for him.
Holy shit. Kyle felt sorry for him.
So when the news bubbled throughout South Park High that Stan Marsh and Wendy Testaburger had done a lot more than kiss, Kyle asked Cartman in a dull, dead voice if he wanted to play video games together after school. Cartman agreed in the same dejected, corpselike manner. At age eight, if someone had told him that ten years from then he would be hanging out at Cartman's house, willingly, Kyle would have told that person to get a CAT scan. But there he was, sitting on the floor of Cartman's room, tapping at the controller with little enthusiasm.
"I'm gonna beat you," Kyle said in a flat monotone.
"No you're not, Jew," Cartman replied in the same manner.
Pause. They turned to look at each other.
"Forget it. I don't care anymore," Kyle said.
They returned to their game. Kyle would have never thought he'd ever have something in common with Eric Theodore Cartman, but there it was. Save for a single difference. Cartman knew the reason for his misery. Kyle did not. Or at least did not want to admit that he did.
"Kyle…Kyle, would it help, if, if I – "
"Oh…oh, come on baby, just try, just try for me…"
"Wait, you – really?"
"All right. Fuck this. Just forget about it."
Kyle zipped his jeans and drove Bebe home. She never called again.
If you walked past Stark's Pond, and you kept walking, beyond the tree line, you found an open field. On a gray, snowy day – ie, a typical day in the mountains – the field blended into the sky. The only way you could find the ground was by a long, lonely fence that stretched out along the field. The fence was old and bare, its dark posts contrasting sharply against the ghostly snow.
Stan dragged his gloved hand along the fence as he walked, exposing the wood beneath its coating of snow. Kyle plodded along beside him. On occasion their shoulders would bump as they trudged through the snow.
As it turned out, fourteen years of solid friendship paid off. Slowly, the weirdness between them dissipated and Kyle and Stan drifted back together. After all, why stop talking over something that, for all Stan knew, Kyle couldn't even remember? It did not take long for the stupid jokes and meaningless chatter to return.
"And you know what I really fucking hate?" Stan continued, "when fast food places try to be healthy. Like, how McDonald's is making all these salads and wraps and shit. It's just ridiculous."
"Like how?" Kyle asked, his voice jolting as their shoulders knocked again.
"Like, if I want fast food, I want food that's fast. I don't want to wait for it. And anything that's good for you, you're gonna have to wait for. It takes time. That's just the way it is. But burgers and fries and stuff, they're fast. And horrible for you. But they taste really good, so people go for it, 'cause it's fast and good."
"Yeah man, exactly. Like, a burger's fucking delicious. It may be slowly killing my body, but I don't care, because it's completely worth it."
"Quick and dirty, dude, quick and dirty."
Stan laughed, "Hell yeah. But then they come out with this salad shit. First of all, if you're a fatass like Cartman who can't control himself, you shouldn't be going to a fast food place to begin with, so there's no need for salads. Second, it's just a front that fast food places put up. They'll never be healthy, no matter how hard they try. They're just kidding themselves."
Kyle did not reply.
"And you know what else bothers me?" Stan said, "Quesadilla makers. Like the kind you buy in the store. The Mayans didn't have that shit. How hard is it to make a goddamn quesadilla that you need a machine from fucking Walmart to do it…"
Kyle had taken to nodding and agreeing with Stan at pauses as Stan's words were drowned out by Kyle's own thoughts. Post-Party Stan was not the same as Pre-Party Stan. Something had changed. Sure, he seemed fine now, but that was because he was distracted by the high art of burgers and quesadillas. But Kyle caught the subtleties. The blank stares. The furrowed brows. Eyes that looked perpetually lost.
"If I was really fucked up in the head, you'd still be my friend, right?" Stan had asked Kyle earlier as they were getting ready to leave.
"There it is," Stan said suddenly.
Kyle looked up. They could see their destination now – an abandoned barn at the end of the fence line. There was something oddly majestic about it, with its large, bold walls standing there amongst the white plains of Colorado
No one knew if it was that he had gotten sick of his basement or his parents had gotten sick of the mess, either way, the senior class approved of Clyde's decision to move his party to the barn. Initially, anyway. As it turned out, you couldn't really light something that had no electricity. Candles were out of the question. The barn was nothing but hay and old wood – the whole thing would combust faster than Kenny had. Clyde had also overestimated the power of body heat. The place was freezing, forcing everyone to keep their jackets on and puff out the ghostly fog of their breath into each other's faces.
So the party was dark and cold, but, in the eloquent words of Kenny McCormick, "At least there's booze so we can get piss drunk and not care about how much this sucks." It was too bad that Kyle had decided that he was most definitely not drinking tonight.
There were three flashlights, collectively. Cartman had managed to snag one, and spent half of his time pestering Wendy with it and the other half exposing and humiliating amorous couples who had taken advantage of the dark. It did not take long before –
"Oh my God! You guys, seriously, you guys! You guuuuuys! You've gotta come look at this, seriously!"
There was a great hustle as everyone made their way to the corner of the barn where Cartman was practically dancing with excitement. A few giggles broke out as the crowd grew.
"You wrote that, Cartman."
"No, I didn't, seriously!"
"Quit dicking around fatass, you wrote that!"
"I told you chickenshit, I didn't write it, I just wish I did!"
Kyle pushed his way through the crowd and followed the beams of the flashlights. Spray-painted on the barn wall in crude handwriting:
ABCDEFG. Death to all the queers I see
"That's funny," Craig said.
Wendy glared at him. "That's sick!"
The barn suddenly seemed too small for Kyle. The walls were closing in, squeezing him from all directions. All of them, they knew. They had to. He didn't know how, but they knew. Convinced that everyone was staring at him, Kyle searched the crowd of his classmates. But there was only one pair of eyes that was upon him. The tragic eyes of Stan Marsh.
Why is Stan looking at me?
Kyle and Stan stared at each other as the other teens surged around them. The next thing Kyle knew he was sweating. It was cold, but he was sweating. His stomach churned. He was going to vomit. Shoving without apologizing, he ran out of the barn. On his way out he heard Stan screaming, "Cartman you fucking tard, what the hell made you think we'd all want to see this…"
Outside, Kyle collapsed against the side of the barn. He swallowed air like water, allowing it to cool his clammy skin. Each gasp he took was shaky. It burned when he exhaled. The fog of his breath in front of him made Kyle feel like he was breathing fire.
He had to get away. He couldn't do this anymore. He had to get away.
The crunch of footsteps in the snow made Kyle turn around. Stan was approaching him, the moonlight casting shadows over his face as he walked.
"Stan," Kyle choked, "I don't know, I just, I don't know – "
Stan said nothing. He said nothing as he walked straight up to his friend, grabbed his face with his hands, and kissed him on the mouth.
They stood together like that for the next two minutes. Then Kyle ran, leaving Stan at the barn, and did not stop running until he was on his front doorstep.
Mr. Kyle Broflovski could not remember how long he had been sitting on his bed, staring at the wall across from him. This wall was blank, but he could still see the ghost of the rhyme scrawled across it.
I have to get away I have to get away.
Kyle hated this town. He hated how everyone had a label, how everyone disliked his mom, and how no one could think for themselves. He hated how people acted before they thought and how their minds had been closed for so long they could no longer be opened. He hated how the town seemed to have jumped off the cycle of time and remained frozen forever. He hated how everyone was the same. He hated how he was different.
He hated how everyone was fucked up, deep down, but no one would ever admit it in a million years.
He hated South Park, Colorado.
And then he remembered. Kyle staggered to his desk and began throwing books and other miscellanea to the floor, not caring if he woke Ike or his parents up in his frantic search. It was here somewhere. He flung papers aside as he dug.
There it was. Underneath his history book. Kyle picked it up and stared.
Saturday. 11:39 AM. Sheila Broflovski knocked on her oldest son's door.
"Bubby, do you plan on getting up?"
Saturday. 3:15 PM. Kyle had emptied the envelope of its contents and spread them across his bed.
Saturday. 7:28 PM. Sheila screamed at the ceiling from the kitchen.
"Kyle, come down here for your dinner!"
He did not.
Saturday. 9:33 PM. Kyle placed the envelope in the mailbox. Then he went back inside to sit on his bed some more.
Saturday. 11:08 PM. Kyle put on his hat, jacket, and boots, walked out the front door and down the sidewalk.
Knock knock knock knock –
The door in front of Kyle swung open, revealing Stan.
"Jesus dude, my parents are asleep," Stan Marsh hissed.
"I just thought I'd tell you that you're going to have to find a new roommate, 'cause I'm not going to Boulder," Kyle said in a diplomatic fashion, "Okay. Goodnight."
Kyle turned to walk home, but a hand on his shoulder spun him back around.
"Kyle, dude, what the hell?" Stan shrieked.
His friend did not make eye contact as he muttered, "I'm going to Caltech instead, Stan. I've made up my mind. I put my confirmation letter in the mailbox. I put the little flag up and everything."
Grabbing him by his coat collar, Stan dragged Kyle inside the dark house and shut the door.
"Upstairs. My room."
Kyle sat on Stan's bed as his friend paced in front of him.
"Kyle, we had everything planned out!" Stan raged, "Everything was going to be fine! How can you just toss it into the shitter like this?"
Kyle looked at the floor. "Dude, I…I can't do this anymore."
"This. These people. This mountain. I have to get out of here."
Stan asked Kyle to explain. Kyle could not.
"Does this have something to do with last night?"
Stan noticed Kyle glance at the wall.
"Dude, you…you can't…Kyle, we can't go to different schools. Please don't do this."
Kyle asked Stan to explain. Stan could not.
The bed dipped as Stan sat beside his friend.
"Stan. What's going on here?"
Their eyes stayed with each other. Kyle allowed Stan's arms to wind themselves around his back and pull him close. Shutting his eyes, Kyle breathed into his friend's shoulder. He was suddenly more tired than he ever had been in his entire life. He did not protest Stan's artful avoidance of the question that was screaming so loudly in their ears. It was much easier to avoid it himself.
"I'm not going to Caltech yet," Kyle murmured.
"I can't. Tomorrow's Sunday. There's no one to pick up the mail."
"You're an asshole sometimes, man."
It became tradition for Mr. Marsh and Mr. Broflovski to fall asleep next to the warmth of each other's bodies on weekend nights. According to tradition, not one word was spoken about this between Stan and Kyle, or Stan and Wendy, or anyone and anyone. After all, they weren't that way. They didn't know what they were, but they weren't that. Right?
To prove that he wasn't that way, Stan continued to see Wendy, as per tradition. But sometimes he wasn't exactly sure of what he was seeing.
It was tradition for Kyle to want to say something to the boy breathing quietly next to him. The words would gather in his mouth, ready to spill out, but then Kyle would see writing on the wall. As per tradition, he would shut his eyes and descend into silence.
Because tradition ran deep in South Park, if anything.
Forks clinked against plates as the Broflovskis enjoyed vegetable lasagna.
"…and then he lectured for a half hour on the importance of Patrick Dempsey's eyes being classified as 'cerulean' instead of just 'blue,'" Ike ranted, "Seriously, I don't get how Mr. Garrison isn't fired."
"He was fired," Sheila pointed out.
"They should've kept it that way," Gerald added.
Kyle looked up from his plate. "Lay off, Mr. Garrison isn't that bad."
Forks clattered to a standstill. Dead silence rang through the room as everyone stared at Kyle.
"Oh – oh my God," Kyle stuttered, realizing what he had just said, "I need to go throw up now."
He knocked over his glass in his rush from the table.
"Kyle, you didn't ask to be excused!" Sheila bellowed.
When Kyle was attending to his locker, he heard whispers at his back. Walking down the hallways was an exercise in avoiding stares. Kyle's once satisfactory penmanship was now abysmal – his hand would shake every time he heard the rustle of a passed note, the stifled giggle of a girl, or the low snicker of a boy.
When he asked Stan about this, Stan told him he was just being paranoid.
When he asked Stan if he was experiencing the same problems, Stan did not respond.
What did they know and how did they know it? Perhaps Bebe's dark glares in the hallway answered the second question.
But as for the first…really, what did they know? Kyle would love it if they would share. Because he certainly did not know. For the first time in his life, his logical, academic, intellectual life, Kyle Broflovski could not explain something. What was more, there was no one to help him, because he could not explain a topic that should have been so familiar to him. Himself.
What did it mean when he lie awake at night, staring at the wall without blinking?
What did it mean when he would press his forehead against Stan's?
What did it mean when both he and Stan refused to acknowledge any of these inexplicable events?
It was in history class when Kyle could not take it anymore. He knew someone was staring at him, he felt it. He whipped around in his seat to tear the offender a new one, only to find that it was Stan who was staring at him. And Kyle knew those eyes long enough and well enough to know that there was an idea seething behind them.
Mr. Marsh was whisked off by Miss Testaburger before Kyle could inquire further. The end of the day found Kyle at his locker, packing his backpack for the weekend.
Kyle turned toward the noise. Cartman had dropped his head against his locker, his face bent into the most miserable look that Kyle had ever seen.
"What's your problem?" Kyle asked.
"Suck it, Jew."
"Fuck you, whale."
A moment of silence passed before Cartman suddenly wailed, "She's going with him!"
"What?" Kyle asked as he reached for his calculus book.
"Wendy's going to prom with that asshole Stan!"
Kyle dropped his calculus book on his foot, but didn't notice.
"You're sure it doesn't bother you, Kyle?"
"Fuck Stan, I told you a million times, I don't care. It's just a stupid-ass dance."
Nevertheless, there was no one beside Stan that weekend.
On the night of his senior prom, Kyle felt that his time would be better spent on his couch watching Terrance and Philip: Asses of Fire. Again.
He was surprised when he heard a knock on the door. He was even more surprised when he opened the door and found Stan on his doorstep.
"Stan? What the hell are you doing here? What about – "
"I couldn't do it, dude. Like you said, it's just a stupid-ass dance."
Stan burst through Kyle's front door, his face pink and his eyes on fire. Snow fell from his hat and bangs as he lifted a large metal can.
"This is lighter fluid," Stan panted, "I need you to get – "
" – the matches," Kyle finished.
Excitement crackled between them like electricity as they stared at each other. With a smile, Kyle broke the bond and dashed upstairs. In his father's study, he found a box of matches. In his room, he found a thick envelope. He bounded back to Stan, skipping stairs as he went.
"Wait, what about Wendy?"
"Let's just say I'm gonna rot in hell."
"It happens," Kyle said, "hold on – gimme your phone."
Stan tossed his cell phone into Kyle's hands. "Who the hell do you want to call now?"
"I just need to send a text real quick," Kyle muttered as he typed.
ask her you fatass.
Stan caught the phone as Kyle threw it back. "Cartman? You sent something to Cartman?"
"You're better off not knowing. Let's go."
The two boys ducked their heads into the snow that whipped their faces, staggering against the merciless wind. Their faces were frozen but their legs were burning. But Stan and Kyle trudged on, shoulder to shoulder, through the storm that raged around them. It was impossible to see even a foot ahead of them. The fence line was their only guide.
But there was never any question of stopping. The person beside him was each boy's motivation to take another step, and the next, and the next.
And suddenly there it was, looming in front of them like a bad dream from their childhood that no longer scared them. The barn.
The empty lighter fluid can lay at their feet.
"Ready?" Stan asked, lighting a match.
Kyle pulled out the Caltech acceptance letter from his jacket and placed it in the hay. Stan smiled.
"Ready," Kyle replied, lighting a match too.
The blaze was like nothing either boy had seen before. The entire barn was consumed by the wild, orange flames that swirled and writhed with untamable fury. Smoke and ash billowed toward the heavens. Kyle and Stan had whooped and hollered in the beginning, cheering the fire on while jumping around in some bastardized tribal dance. It was as though their souls were on fire too. Now they were content to stand together and just watch as the blaze ate away everything.
This was destruction of the past. This was destruction of fear.
This was creation of a future that could not be mapped. But it didn't matter, because it was their future. Everything was clear.
Kyle slid his hand into Stan's.