Our two bodies on that limb, not moving as one. One boy did not love another.
Being tangled in affection with someone was new to me.
Before Phineas, I'd never loved a person I wasn't related to. That part of me had never been let out. Finny's meanwhile, of course, had never been kept in. His unconfined affections were surplus to requirements and he spread them far, wide, and carelessly. I felt them, and thought about them.
His carelessness with affection blurred the boundaries of the general with the personal. He felt, but stopped to think - only sometimes.
After reluctantly jumping my first suicide leap of the summer session, I tackled him in a bit of playfulness calculated (on the spur of the moment) to please him. (I've mentioned this before.) As we rolled in the dirt, his hand effortlessly slid up my back, under my shirt, across my spine, and stopped somewhere behind my heart. There was an awareness that in the pleasantest way this was not some other person's hand and arm, but Finny's hand, my back, me, him. I'd wanted to please, and had. Love was in the picture, but for lack of experience with it, it went unidentified.
Detecting a thing's presence could be a long way short of understanding its identity. For the time being, one boy did not love the other, quite.
We'd made one another happy; in a schoolboy permissible kind of way. Before, at least for me, it had been a flashing thing of bits and fragments; now it was a whole. We had the power to make a moment golden, lasting, like a sunset screened by trees. No one had ever done this with me before.
He dldn't know what running his hand up my back, or that on-the-beach admission might do to a guy. Didn't know the power he had just combing his hair in the mirror while I watched. Didn't guess at, much less want (or did he?) the sway he had over me that left me bound in knots - he had no idea of any of it (or had he?).
So I followed him and hurt him instead of staying behind with a book. I was dazed by him, by us - by whatever held and attracted us and separated us from the rest of the student body. His hand floated toward me, then his balance gone, it sank away.
He should have been the one crazy high on that particular beech's branch that August dusk. And I shouldn't have been anywhere near. I should have stayed behind, should have listened to him.
I didn't want him to guess, did I? Didn't want to be a best pal, a best student was enough, I told myself - that being exactly what I decided he wanted me not to be. ; that's why I couldn't answer him in the dark, on the beach.
My hand wandered over his bare back, over his left shoulder blade, more or less over where the heart is. He wanted it there; I wanted it there. One boy loved the other.