• Procyon Podcast Network

Keep It Steady Episode 3

MORNING ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good morning, Columbus High students! It is Saturday, March 11th, 2005, and at least you’re not in school, right? Please be advised that this episode contains homophobia, a homophobic slur, and tense situations. And now we’d like to take a moment to honor the very first person Zach had a crush on, when they were both in fifth grade. Mathilde Amo had a nice smile and was always reading interesting books and rewarded Zach’s affections by never once showing up totally unannounced on his doorstep. Thanks, Mathilde!


ZACH Gabe, the Hell’s going on? Whose car is that?


GABE (GRITTED TEETH) Let. Me. In.


ZACH NARRATION

I shrug and step aside, leaving him to follow me into the front hall. I run a hand through my hair, which has no doubt formed some kind of topiary shape while I slept. I am sharply aware I haven’t put on deodorant or brushed my teeth, and I’m still in pajamas: a threadbare shirt from some eighth grade field trip and boxers.


After a moment, Gabe notices too, because his eyes widen slightly and dammit, I refuse to be self-conscious about this, okay? I refuse.


ZACH

You’re lucky I’m wearing anything. What the hell, I was asleep.


GABE

It’s five PM.


ZACH Why are you in my house?


GABE My mom. She heard about our—date. I kept saying she didn’t need to give me a ride, but she was going that way anyway.


ZACH And you couldn’t warn me?


GABE

(EXAGGERATED PATIENCE) Well, no. I don’t have your phone number.


ZACH Why did you tell your mom—


GABE I didn’t. (MOURNFULLY) Ponni.


ZACH Jesus, that kid really can’t keep a secret.


GABE (SEVERELY) She means well.


ZACH Hooray, she doesn’t actively want evil shit to happen. Let’s throw her a parade.


GABE I don’t know. There’s something to be said for choosing kindness over cheap snide remarks.


ZACH (HURT) Do you think anyone would notice if I immediately dropped you back off?


GABE My dad’s home, so.


ZACH Shit.


GABE Zach?


ZACH Yeah?


GABE Are you planning on putting on pants at some point? Really, at any point?


ZACH (DEADPAN) “Don’t try to change me, baby.”


SILENCE


ZACH (SIGHS) This way.


FX: TWO SETS OF FOOTSTEPS THROUGH ZACH’S HOUSE


ZACH NARRATION

I’m not about to invite Gabe in while I change but it feels equally weird to make him wait outside like a dog.


ZACH (ODDLY FORMAL) Uh, do you want anything to eat or drink? We’ve got, I don’t know, chips, Pop-Tarts, juice—


GABE (GETTING SHRILL) You’re seriously not going to put on pants?


ZACH (SNAPPISH) Try not to drop your monocle.


GABE I’m not asking you for outlandish things. I’m asking you to wear pants.


ZACH Fine, I will cover my shame if it means that much to you. (A BEAT) And in the meantime, here’s a little something for your fainting couch.


ZACH NARRATION I’m not, like, proud of this but. As I reach for my bedroom door, I use my other hand to tug down the neck of my shirt far enough to show some collar bone.


Gabe stares at me. Who knows what he’s thinking.


FX: Door kind of slams.


ZACH NARRATION

The cleanest clothes in the room all belong to Tori; her laundry is still heaped under my bookshelf. The cleanest of my clothes are probably the jeans crumpled by the bed. I put them on, plus a sweatshirt so nobody has to be traumatized by my elbows, either.


Brushing my teeth is non-negotiable. The inside of my mouth is like, fuzzy. When I peek out into the hallway, it’s empty. Whatever, I trust that Gabe was smart enough to find that kitchen if he got hungry.


When I finally bring myself to check the bathroom mirror, my hair is as bad as I feared, like some weird abstract sculpture: Disaster In Brown. If I brush it, Gabe will know I’m trying, which, no. If I don’t brush it, it’ll keep being hideous modern art. I comb a hand through the mess. As if all that’s standing between me and Gabe’s good opinion is a respectable hairdo. Ridiculous, just ridiculous. Maybe some water would help it lie flat?


My hat is sitting in my room. I dart across the hallway and tug it on.


FX: A DOOR OPENS. ZACH STEPS OUT.


ZACH Gabe?


GABE (CALLING) Oh, uh, I’m in the living room.


ZACH Shit.


GABE All these trophies and stuff, are they yours?


ZACH Bought ‘em on eBay to impress you.


GABE (IGNORING THAT) You won the spelling bee. Twice. First place in the Art Fair, Best Anti-Drug Speech 1998, Perfect Attendance--


ZACH Not sure how that one made it in there. I think my parents were just filling out the row.


GABE My mom knows your mom. They do Jazzercise together.


ZACH ...never said they didn’t.


GABE (HUFFS, ANNOYED) I keep thinking you’re gonna ask how my mom knew the way to your house.


ZACH I just assumed I was being punished for something. Like, karmically.


GABE My mom has been to your house before. She knew your mom had a son, but she thought you were about twelve. I couldn’t figure it out, but. There are pictures of you as a kid all over the place—and then, nothing from the last four or five years. At all.


ZACH Yeah, well. (A LITTLE EMBARASSED) It turns out they don’t give you a trophy for flunking freshman year.


GABE

What? Krista said you were in second grade together.


ZACH

We were. Then I skipped a grade. Then I flunked a grade. Now we’re in the same grade again.

GABE Zach. You won spelling bees. You had perfect attendance. What happened?


ZACH NARRATION Gabe’s eyes widen. Tori's voice comes filtering back to me: 'Like I'm a barefoot orphan in one of those Save-the-Children ads.' Suddenly I understand why she was such an asshole to Krista.


ZACH What happened? Between middle school and now? See, this is awkward. (ZACH DROPS HIS VOICE TO A WHISPER) Has nobody told you about puberty? A few years from now, you're gonna start noticing certain changes. Your voice will get deeper and you'll find hair growing in places where there wasn't hair before, but don’t worry, it's all perfectly natural—


GABE

Forget it. I thought since we were stuck together anyway, we might as well try a normal human conversation—


ZACH Believe it or not, 'Hey Zach, why are you such a useless burnout?' is not the best icebreaker—


GABE Oh. I didn’t. I’m sorry.


ZACH See the kid on the end, totally not looking at the camera? That is a rare glimpse of young Leslie McClary in the wild.


GABE (SMILING) Oh, hey. (SEEING SOMETHING) Is that--?


ZACH (ALSO SMILING) A toy frog sticking out of her shirt pocket? You better believe it.


GABE No, is that you in front?


ZACH NARRATION

I have no memory of this photo being taken, but I can imagine how it went. The tallest members of mural club are in back. The rest kneel in a second row below them. I have formed a third row all by myself, sprawled at their feet like a kid accustomed to being the shortest in any group photo. I’m resting my head in one hand, and I’ve got a paintbrush clenched in my teeth like a rose. The grin on my face is toothy and manic and hard to look at.


ZACH No, I am the much cooler kid just out of frame.


GABE

It’s definitely you. You’ve got the same nose.


ZACH Won it from him in a Poker game.


GABE

What middle schooler knows the rules to Poker? Unless you were a much cooler middle schooler than me.


ZACH (WITH FEELING) I was not.


GABE

You can’t know that.


ZACH I can. Seriously, you dodged a bullet not meeting that kid.


ZACH

I think I have a picture of Tiny Krista somewhere. In second grade, we had to dress up like our favorite character from a book? She did The Boxcar Children and dressed up like a boxcar.


GABE (SMILING) I may need to see that.


ZACH Look. This doesn’t have to be, like, torture. Neither of us wants to have a shitty Saturday, and we aren’t terrible people. We just need to not kill each other, and then I can drop you back at your house. In the meantime, I’ll lend you a book or something. Okay?


GABE Yeah.


ZACH NARRATION

I head back down the hallway, forcing my stride casual as my mind frantically maps the current mess on my floor, trying to remember if I left out anything embarrassing. I’m lucky; Tori and Cody drop by often enough that I’m probably in the clear. Well, except for the insides of some of my drawing notebooks, but Gabe is surely smart enough not to rifle through my papers, and if he isn't, well, I can always change my name and move to a different country. Dye my hair. Grow a mustache. Join the French Foreign Legion.


ZACH If you want a book, the books are--


ZACH NARRATION I manage not to say out loud “the books are in the bookcase,” but it’s close enough that I can’t feel good about it. Gabe doesn’t seem to notice, just takes a step toward the shelves and the mound of Tori’s clothes beneath them. I am struck with a vivid, horrifying image of Gabe snagging his foot on a bra.


ZACH Look out.


GABE

Um.


ZACH

I keep telling Tori not to leave her shit in my room. Uh, I’ll get you a chair.


ZACH NARRATION

I haven’t bought many books since eighth grade. (Well, there’s the brand-new copy of Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone in the bottom of my backpack, but that’s a secret I’m taking to my grave.) My shelves are mostly full of the cheesy fantasy and sci-fi novels I devoured in middle school. Slim pickings for someone like Gabe, who would probably rather toss one of those paperbacks in a blender and drink the pulp than read it. I wouldn’t blame him. The imaginary Gabe who lives in my head and judges everything I’ve ever done makes some good points sometimes.


ZACH Have you read Animorphs?


GABE For crying out loud, yes, I’ve read Animorphs, I’m not a Martian.


ZACH Or an Andalite. (PAUSE) What’s going on, dude? Sensing some hostility here.


(SEVERAL BEATS) GABE What does Tori think of this? Pretending to date?


ZACH Uh, she thinks it’s stupid. Why?


GABE Did you even run it by her first?


ZACH Why the Hell would I need to? It is in no way her call.


GABE

Okay, I get that it’s none of my business, and I don’t want to start a fight right now—


ZACH

Ooh, can’t wait to see how this sentence ends.


GABE But. For the record. That is a shitty thing to do to a person.


ZACH What?


ZACH Oh my god, dude, do you think me and Tori are hooking up?


GABE

...You aren’t?


ZACH (GOD, THE HILARITY! HE LAUGHS VERY HARD, FOR A WHILE) (STILL WHEEZING) Oh my god, man, Tori, what the Hell?


GABE

You’re always together. She leaves her underwear in your room


ZACH She stays here sometimes. Obviously, since there’s like six bras here. What did you think, she has twelve boobs?


GABE (HUFFS AN ALMOST-LAUGH)


FX: ZACH TAKES A STEP TOWARDS THE BOOKCASE, SLIDING OUT A PAPERBACK.


ZACH

Here, read this.


GABE

The Golden Compass. (PAUSE) ‘Ages twelve and up.’


ZACH I read it when I was eleven, fight the power. It’s good, I promise. Hey, either you enjoy it or you prove me wrong. Win-win?


ZACH NARRATION

Gabe settles onto the chair, and I settle in at my computer and open iTunes. It’s hard to determine the scope of Cody’s damage. The kid didn’t lie; he did keep a folder of everything he deleted. The thing is, he also renamed every track, stuff like--


CODY NARRATION “Just forget about this one just let it go.mp3”


ZACH NARRATION And--


CODY NARRATION “COME ON DUDE WHAT”


ZACH NARRATION

I pull myself together, slip in an earbud, and get to work rescuing my music.


It’s repetitive, going through track by track, but it’s almost soothing. Half an hour in, and the sound of Gabe’s breathing, the shush of pages, no longer makes me straighten up in my chair, just fades into a pleasant background hum, like rain or the ocean or frying bacon. It’s almost like hanging out with Tori when she’s in one of her less chatty moods.


Unfortunately, as my stomach finally settles, it comes with the reminder that the last thing I ate was some chips off Cody’s plate almost 24 hours ago. I tug out the other earbud and swivel around. Gabe is absorbed in The Golden Compass, head bowed, smiling just a little.


ZACH Wanna order a pizza?


GABE Yeah. Uh, we could split a large? I can pay.


ZACH No way in Hell.


GABE My parents gave me money specifically for tonight.


ZACH They’re seriously that cool with—thinking you’re dating a dude?


GABE (OFFHANDEDLY) They’re fine, they love me, it’s not a problem.


ZACH ...oh.


GABE

But I figured, well, I didn’t know how you were handling it with your family, so I told my mom you weren't out to them. It distracted her from asking questions, so I played it up, said you were uh, somewhat—miserably closeted at home, sorry if that’s weird.


ZACH (RAW, VULNERABLE) That was...uh. Good thinking. (RELATIVELY BACK TO NORMAL) In fact, you just won yourself a free pizza.


GABE

No, come on. I woke you up. I’m paying.


ZACH

Keep your money. What am I gonna do with twenty dollars? Blow it on drugs or snacks.


GABE (EARNEST) Please let me do this.


ZACH NARRATION There’s just no pulling ahead of that. Except the delivery guy rings the doorbell while Gabe’s in the bathroom, and I seize my chance.


I’m so buoyed by my victory—and the chance to rub it in Gabe’s face, maybe—that when I open the door and see Mike from school, my first instinct is to smile and say, “Hey man, didn’t know you were a pizza guy, how’s it going?”


FX: DOOR OPENS


ZACH Hey--


MIKE What the Hell.


ZACH NARRATION It’s been almost three years, but it all comes back in a heartbeat—that spike of panic, how my throat dries up and my hands shake. Yesterday, Mike was knocking Leslie to the floor without the slightest remorse, and that was in school. Here, there’s nothing to keep him from beating me to a pulp, and it’s clear by the way Mike’s standing that he knows this.


ZACH

Um, just uh, just let me—(PAUSE) (TO HIMSELF) Where’s my wallet? (REACTING TO THE SCARY GLARE MIKE IS GIVING HIM) Um, I need to—


MIKE Just give me the goddamn money.


ZACH I don’t have—I need to go find—


ZACH NARRATION

Mike takes a step forward and I choke down a hysterical laugh because suddenly this is a mugging, this is a mugging plus a pizza, this is absolutely the stupidest way anyone will have ever died.


ZACH Please, I just—


MIKE Listen, homo—


GABE

Oh look, pizza’s here. (GABE PULLS A BILL FROM A WALLET) This should cover it. My treat, Zach.


ZACH NARRATION

His smile goes sharper, and I know it’s to mess with Mike, but if anything that just makes it hotter, that underlying edge of defiance and shit, I am so gone. Gabe leans closer to me.


GABE Since it’s been such a nice night.


MIKE

You—


GABE

(COMPLETELY UNBOTHERED) I need my change. Eighteen fifty seven including tax, right? So one forty three.


MIKE (THROUGH GRITTED TEETH ) What about tip.


GABE

Right. Sorry, I always forget, I know it’s twenty percent for waitstaff and barbers. How much do you tip a homophobe? Zero percent, right? Zero?


ZACH

My heart is still hammering. It’s taking most of my energy not to hug Gabe, or at least throw an arm around those perfect shoulders. Although given how provocative Gabe’s acting, he might actually welcome it. I summon all my courage and fling out one arm. I only realize mid-motion how much taller Gabe is. It’s too late to take back, so I slide my arm around his waist instead.


Technically, it’s still nothing Gabe hadn’t suggested ahead of time. It’s half a hug, and Gabe has every opportunity to test out our safeword.


He doesn’t.


He does raise his eyebrows, which is fair, and I think: the best way to camouflage this is to make it ridiculous.


ZACH (COOING) Oh Gabe, you’re so smart. So good at math.


GABE Thanks, babe, I try.


ZACH NARRATION And then Gabe is wrapping his own arm around me, palm coming to rest on my hip so casual, like it’s not burning a hole through my hoodie, like it’s not the one thing I can focus on, tucked cozily against Gabe’s side.


GABE (FIERCE) Mike, give me my change, leave right now, and we won’t tell your manager you tried to physically intimidate a customer.


MIKE Whatever. (COINS ARE SORT OF TOSSED AT GABE) We don’t need business from you people. (PIZZA BOX IS HANDED OVER) Enjoy your food, homos.


FX: THE DOOR SLAMS SHUT.


GABE I think that went well.


ZACH (TRYING TO COLLECT HIMSELF) Okay.


GABE

Are you alright?


ZACH Yeah.


GABE God, what a jerk. He’s in U.S. History with me, and he didn’t know the name of the current vice president, which. You really are alright?


ZACH Just hungry. Back to my room?


GABE Yeah. (TWO SETS OF FOOTSTEPS THROUGH THE HOUSE) By the way, your wallet’s in the medicine cabinet.


ZACH The hell? (TO HIMSELF) How’d it wind up there?


GABE

I put it there. You weren’t going to let me pay, and it was right on your desk, so. (A BEAT) Sorry. I didn’t think about the pizza coming early. I just—really wanted to pay.


ZACH NARRATION I try not to be charmed Gabe essentially stole my wallet out of, like, chivalry. It goes about as well as anything that depends on my will power.


We chew our pizza silently. Maybe it's awkward for Gabe, but I’m not sure I care at this point. It's hard to believe I’ve only been awake for a couple of hours. All I want is to curl up in bed and sleep.


My neck is so sore. I think longingly of being a middle school drama kid, all the stretching and trust exercises. I could ask Gabe to form a two-person massage train. Or, for the same emotional effect, I could just repeatedly slam my head into the wall. Gabe probably gives terrible neck rubs anyway, I think, over-cautious and impersonal, all clammy fingers and insufficient pressure. Not that his hand had felt impersonal or clammy on my hip, tugging me closer until I was snug in the half-circle of Gabe’s arm.


I let my head loll back and forth as I chew, trying to free up some of the tension. Gabe glances up mid-bite and then away again, back at the pizza box between us. 'If I had the slightest idea what would make you happy, I'd do it,' I think. Even if it was idiotic, or humiliating. Stand on my head. Sing the alphabet backwards.


ZACH

Did you ever do drama or anything?


GABE

No, why?


ZACH Nothing. You did a good job with Mike. The white-knight routine. (PUTS ON A HALF-HEARTED HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER VOICE) You’re a natural, kid.


GABE (SINCERE) You, too.


ZACH For real? Maybe it was over the top.


GABE

I think subtlety’s lost on a guy who thinks World War One was the first-ever war.


ZACH (LAUGHS) Yeesh. Good news is you can probably go back in like an hour. Also, you can borrow the book. (FX: ZACH CLIMBS INTO A DESK CHAIR) I mean, since clearly I was right about it. No need to thank me, it's cool. (FX: ZACH BRINGS UP THE COMEDY CENTRAL WEBSITE) I’m not even gonna gloat about it, y’know? And to be clear, by ‘it’ I mean how I was totally right and you were—


GABE Hey, are you watching The Daily Show?


ZACH Yeah.


GABE Can I watch with you?


ZACH No. (A BEAT) I mean, you’re not, like, forbidden. The day I got this computer, I spilled half a can of rootbeer into the speakers, and they’ve never worked since. Hence the earbuds.


GABE You only use one earphone at a time.


ZACH Yeah. If you want a turn on the computer, I can do something else.


GABE No, that’s okay, but. You’re only using half your headphones. We could share. (A PAUSE) It’s fine, not a big deal, whatever.


ZACH D’you want to?


GABE

I missed Monday’s show.


ZACH NARRATION

Maybe this will somehow not be excruciating, I think, holding out the earbud with a flourish. Gabe wrestles the chair next to me. The cord tethers us together; there’s no way around how our shoulders knock, arms brushing. I pull up the episode and hit play.


There's something surprisingly intimate about laughter in close proximity. I sort of wish I’d known that ahead of time. The sense-memory of being crowded up against Gabe as his body shakes was absolutely information I didn't need.


Gabe smells citrusy—soap or shampoo or who knows, maybe his pores just naturally give off orange essence, maybe that's the next step in human evolution. He's a restless TV watcher, shifting in his chair, swinging his foot, and his laugh is as perfect as everything else about him.

It's profoundly unfair. It's torture. I kind of want to stay here forever?


We watch six more episodes like that.


ZACH Oh shit, dude it’s almost ten, we’ve gotta get you home.


GABE (SCRAMBLING A LITTLE) Right.


ZACH NARRATION As I ease onto the subdivision road, Gabe turns to me.


FX: CAR DRIVING SOUNDS


GABE

My parents will want to meet you.


ZACH Tell ‘em I’m shy. GABE (SNORTS)


ZACH Tell ‘em I’m a shy, delicate flower. With all these, like, issues from being, what’d you say, miserably closeted? Is this gonna make things weird between our moms?


GABE Not really. My mom didn't especially like your mom. Said she seemed—insincere.


ZACH (LAUGHS, WEIRDLY DELIGHTED) Ouch, man. Ouch.


GABE Mm.


ZACH

Did Mike really think World War One was the first war?


GABE And that the Ten Commandments were the first laws. The teacher tried to back him up on that one, it was ridiculous.


ZACH What a dick. Shoulda listened to me, I would’ve clued you in—


GABE

In between misogynistic crap about ‘getting girls’—


ZACH (GRINNING) ‘Women aren’t Pokemon, asshole!’ Man, you are a trip.


GABE (NOT AT ALL AMUSED) Miller. Then left on Hemlock. In case you forget. Again.


ZACH NARRATION

It’s hard to believe this is the same guy that put his arm around my waist a few hours ago. Then again, he kind of isn’t.


The second the wheels touch the driveway, flood lights flicker on, lighting up the whole yard and scalding my retinas. I scrunch my face against the spots forming in my eyes.


ZACH Jesus.

FX: ZACH PUTS THE CAR IN PARK.


GABE They came with the house.


ZACH Nothing like suburban paranoia.


FX: GABE UNBUCKLING HIS SEATBELT.


ZACH See you Monday.


GABE (HESITATING SLIGHTLY) Yeah…


ZACH Dude, I’m not meeting your parents.


GABE I know, you already said that.


ZACH Is, uh, that their room? With the light on? And the curtain, uh, moving a little?


GABE Yeah.


ZACH What are the chances they’re spying on us?


GABE Uh. Very, very high? (A BEAT) What?


ZACH Lucky for us, they have a terrible vantage point. This is easy. Okay, don’t freak out.


GABE Why—


FX: SEATBELT UNBUCKLES


ZACH NARRATION

Trying not to think about it too hard, I lean in, looking past whatever stoic expression Gabe must be making right now, until my lips are almost brushing Gabe’s ear.


ZACH (WHISPERS) From this angle, to them, it looks like I’m kissing you.


ZACH NARRATION I pull away, straighten up. Gabe is still sitting there and I get this flash of panic that maybe I’ve given too much away, but he just nods distractedly.


GABE See you Monday.


ZACH NARRATION When I roll up to my parking spot on Monday morning, Krista is waiting for me with a book and two to-go cups, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.


FX: BIRDS ARE SINGING. ZACH OPENS HIS VAN DOOR, CLIMBS OUT, SHUTS THE DOOR BEHIND HIM.


KRISTA (PLEASANT) Morning. Didn’t know if you were a coffee person so I got you an apple cider, hope that’s okay.


ZACH NARRATION I have nothing against cider, but I’ve never seen the point. At some moment in history, a guy went, “Hey, what if we made apple juice hot as soup?” and then nobody stopped him.


Instinct tells me to take the cup anyway.


ZACH Is this the ‘he’s my friend and if you hurt him you’ll pay’ speech?


KRISTA

Oh, Zachary. Zachariah. Zach Attack. You’re smart enough I assumed we could keep it as subtext.


ZACH Thanks. Maybe. And, uh, thanks for the—


KRISTA

Listen. Gabe doesn’t do things halfway. If he agreed to date you, it’s because he is wild about you, and I’m sorry, Zach, I’ve been thinking about this and I want to trust you—


ZACH But you don’t.


KRISTA You don’t give us a reason to.


ZACH Did we like, have a fight at some point? A few years ago?


KRISTA

Not exactly. I asked you a question in the cafeteria and you barked like a dog at me. For like a minute and a half.


ZACH Huh. Why?


KRISTA You didn’t happen to explain. If it’s any comfort, your friends thought it was hilarious.


ZACH NARRATION

If I was with a group, it was my second run at freshman year and I was too high to tie my shoes.


ZACH What’d you ask me?


KRISTA HESITATES


ZACH No barking, I promise.


KRISTA If you were trying out for the musical.


ZACH (MUMBLING) You shouldn’t—I mean, please don’t, like, take it personally.


KRISTA

We’re getting off track. It’s fine. Everyone does things freshman year they regret. My point is, Gabe—


ZACH I promise I won’t bark at him, either.


KRISTA Given how you’ve mocked him all year, you have to admit it looks fishy.


ZACH Are you worried this is, like, a prank or a bet or something? C’mon dude, life’s not a WB show.


KRISTA So you’re serious.

ZACH (DEEP BREATH) (SINCERE) I am gonna do the absolute best I can. I’m gonna—I can’t say ‘take it seriously,’ because let’s be real, if somebody chopped my nose off, I’d be making nose jokes from here to the hospital, but like. It’s important to me, okay? And I promise—if anyone gets hurt, it’s not gonna be Gabe.


KRISTA (ALMOST CASUAL) Oh, if he hurts you, he’ll suffer. We’re all stuck in the same room for two afternoons a week. Outside the walls of the theater, I’ve got zero time for teen drama.


ZACH NARRATION

I had not stopped to think about what would happen after prom, once we go from fake boyfriends to fake former boyfriends. I don’t know if I have the personal strength to show up as Gabe’s ex, everyone trying not to look too obvious in their pity—and okay, that’s a lie, I know I don’t have the personal strength. I’ve been wondering how I’m gonna make it until Prom, but shit, what am I gonna do after?


KRISTA I wasn’t trying for a showdown, Zach. I really do want to believe you.


ZACH NARRATION

Except that Krista actually gets people, and that means Krista sees clear-eyed that I’m a jackass, notes something fishy about the whole situation, and shit, I will to need to step up my game so hard—


KRISTA Look. He acts like nothing bothers him, but he’s had a hard year. Be nice to him, okay?


ZACH What’s his first hour?


KRISTA Con Econ, why?


ZACH How does he feel about cider?


KRISTA (SMILING) Loves it.


ZACH NARRATION Consumer Economics is on the opposite wing from Spanish. I slip in maybe three minutes before the bell. I have to scan the room maybe three times before I finally spot Gabe in the front, hunched over a book, forehead propped on one hand.


ZACH Hey. Morning, dude. Brought you this, because I’m the best boyfriend ever.


GABE Thanks.


FX: WHISPERING.


ZACH (HUSHED) Wow, you have Scott and Mike in your class? Your Con Econ sucks.


GABE (AMUSED) I’m aware.


FX: THE WHISPERING BECOMES SNICKERS


ZACH Screw ‘em, man, they’re just jealous.


GABE ‘Dude.’ ‘Man.’


ZACH What?


GABE You said there would be terrible nicknames, and then you didn’t deliver. Dude.


ZACH Oh yeah? Just try me, babypie. Honeytoes. Poodle-hands.


GABE

(LAUGHS) You weren’t kidding. Where’s your first hour?


ZACH Español.


GABE You’ve got a minute to get there.


ZACH Yeah.


GABE You’re gonna be late.


ZACH Does seem likely.


GABE

You’ll get in trouble.


ZACH (SAGELY) Yeah, turns out they don’t like it when you’re tardy.


GABE Go. Now.


ZACH On it.


ZACH’S FOOTSTEPS ACROSS THE FLOOR

GABE (LOUD ENOUGH FOR THE ROOM TO HEAR) Hey, I had a nice time on Friday.


ZACH Damn right you did.


ZACH NARRATION

Gabe’s eyeroll is visible from across the room, but he’s smiling just enough that an outsider might see it as fond.


For someone who has never done drama, dude can really sell a smile.


My third tardy of the quarter means another detention. Señora Johnson seems weirdly bummed to be punishing me. I get the queasy sense that the rumors must’ve reached her. When the class breaks into pairs to write their dialogues, she lets me and Tori work in the hallway so readily that I know it’s true.


Tori lowers herself to the grimy tile floor, spreading her skirt around her. When I sink down next to her, she frowns at my Spanish notebook, the list doodled in the margin.


TORI “Bunny teeth,” “Cupcake breath.” You’re putting a lot of effort into this. (A BEAT) Do you have ‘cheese pudding’ yet?


ZACH How are you so good at this?


TORI Natural talent.


ZACH

Do you mind if—


TORI I write the skit? Whatever. You need to help with my English essay, though.


ZACH Easy. Write about loss of innocence. Doesn’t matter what you’re reading, nobody gets to the end more innocent than they started.


TORI

That’s not terrible.


ZACH Speaking of innocence, dude, you have got to get your shit out of my room because it looks so shady. Gabe thought we were, uh—


TORI Who cares if Gabe thinks we’re banging? You’re not dating for real.


ZACH (SNAPPING) Thanks. That is abundantly clear to me, but thanks.


TORI Also, how do you jump from ‘pile of laundry’ to ‘doin’ it like animals’, like what kind of perv just assumes—


ZACH SIGHS


TORI Look, if talking shit about him doesn’t help, I’m out of ideas.


ZACH Guess I thought you’d find it funnier—


TORI You know most of the school thought we were, right?


ZACH (FLOORED) What?


TORI Freshman year.


ZACH NARRATION (She means her freshman year, my second attempt.)


TORI

When we started hanging out? Nobody, like, asked me about it, just, there was a sudden sharp increase in people calling me a slut, so like.


ZACH Whoa, that is so shitty. That is so, so, shitty.


TORI I mean, welcome to the planet.


ZACH

No, seriously. What kind of bullshit patriarchal double standard—

TORI Patriarchal what?


ZACH NARRATION For some reason, I think I might be blushing.


CLOSING MUSIC - SISYPHUS WITH NO LYRICS


KAY This episode features…


ASHTON Ashton Reid as Zach


CHRIS Chris Rivera as Gabe


GREG Greg Vinciguerra as Cody


ANDY Andy BC Emmerson as Mike


REGINA

Regina Renée Russell as Krista


ISHANI Ishani Kanetkar as Tori

CARA Directed by Cara Ehlenfeldt


PHOEBE Sound effects by Phoebe Izzard Davey


REBECCA

Audio mixing by Rebecca Lynn

JESS Written by Jessica Best. Zach's narration music is by Chiron Star. Closing credits music is written by Jessica Best and arranged, produced, and performed by Chiron Star.


KAY

And I’ve been Kay Watson, your morning announcements. Thank you and have a great day, Columbus High!

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MORNING ANNOUNCEMENTS Good morning Columbus High students. Today is Monday, November 7th, 2005 and these are your morning announcements. Please be advised this episode contains strong language and som