“They’re a symbol of how close you and your grandfather are,” Reese said, referencing the fact that the tattoo there is a copy of the one my grandfather has. I admired him; he’d raised me. The ink felt like a symbol of our connection.
“Exactly. And now I want to mark this occasion,” I said.
“The moment when you knew for sure?”
I smiled. “Yeah. Is that crazy?”
“It’s crazy awesome,” she said, then scooted around the table, joined me on my side of the booth, and draped an arm around me. “I love you.”
“Love you too, girl,” I said.
“Back to Ink Lore?” she asked.
“Let’s do it.”
After I paid for breakfast, we headed to the tattoo shop. I pushed open the door and checked out the designs.
A skull and crossbones? Nah.
A rainbow? Too on the nose.
A panther for my favorite animal? That didn’t feel right either.
I shook my head as Reese and I flipped through each page in the binder.
“Nothing grabbing you?” she asked.
I raised my face, shook my head when my eyes landed on a display of stainless steel metal piercings right above the counter.
Images flashed in my head.
Nights alone in my room, with the Internet.
When I’d asked Google all sorts of questions about myself.
Some nights I’d looked at videos. Sometimes, I’d read articles. Other times, I’d taken those are you gay online tests.
Those were the nights when I’d started to figure out what I liked.
What attracted me.
What had turned me on.
And mostly, how I felt in my body. My body liked guys. I wanted something not just on my body but in my body.
I chose a barbell through my left nipple.
It seemed the perfect way to mark that I finally knew myself.
Another moment came a week later. I’d just caught a baseball game, and my phone pinged with a news alert when I was heading home in my grandfather’s car.
A guy named Declan Steele had made the starting lineup for the San Francisco Cougars. It was his first year as a shortstop. He was hot as fuck, talented for days, and out of the closet.
That was when my crush began.
A few months later
That summer after I graduated high school, Reese and I went to a few games in the city. We’d been doing that for as long as I could remember, but admittedly, I got a little buzz every time Declan came to bat. Sitting there in the stands, the sun shining, the crowd roaring, watching him come to the plate, gave me a thrill.
Partly a professional thrill. Partly a personal one. I admired Declan, even though I hardly knew him. I admired what he represented.
Being himself. Living free.
Every time the announcer warbled his name, I sat up straighter, leaned closer.
“And now at the plate, batting right, is number eighteen. Shortstop Declan Steele.” The fans went wild. No surprise. Declan was having a hell of a rookie season and winning the hearts of the San Francisco fans.
With her blonde ponytail bobbing in the summer breeze, Reese nudged me. “He’s so hot. He sort of looks like . . .” She drifted off as she stared at his image on the jumbotron. “Hmmm. What celebrity does he look like?”
“Ah, that is the question.”
This was a game we often played. That guy is a Chris Evans. That woman looks like Scarlett Johansson. I always teased my friend that she looked like Reese Witherspoon. She told me I look like Captain America.
I studied the humongous picture of Declan on the screen above the bleachers and tried to figure out what movie star, what singer, what famous person he looked most like.
But I came up short.
I couldn’t put a comp on him.
Declan had dark hair, deep brown eyes, a chiseled jaw, carved cheekbones, and a certain intensity in his gaze. I couldn’t compare him to anyone. He just looked like one of the sexiest athletes I’d ever seen.
“I think he just looks like Declan Steele,” I mused.
She bumped her shoulder to mine. “Someone has a crush.”
I rolled my eyes. “No shit, woman.”
“I approve of this crush. I kinda think he looks like —”
I clasped a hand to her mouth. “Nope. I don’t want to think of him like anyone else.”
Her eyes popped. “This crush is big time.”
I stared at her, then at the screen. “Duh. Just look at him.”
She held up her hands in surrender. “Utter hotness. He looks like one of those models advertising anything expensive.” She took a beat. “Do you want to try to say hi after the game? Maybe try to go down to the field? Or we could come tomorrow and go to batting practice?”
I scoffed, shaking my head like it was going out of style. “No effing way.”
She laughed. “Why do you say no way? Like that’s the craziest thing? We’ve gotten plenty of signatures on baseballs before.”
“Like, when we were ten,” I said.