From the award-winning authors David Levithan and Nina LaCour, the story of a friendship forged over the course of one fateful pride week in San Francisco.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
NINA LACOUR is the award-winning author of Hold Still, The Disenchantments, and Everything Leads to You. A former indie bookseller and high school teacher, she lives with her family in San Francisco.
DAVID LEVITHAN is the New York Times bestselling author of YA novels, including Another Day, Two Boys Kissing, Every Day, Boy Meets Boy, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green). By day, he works as an editor. By night, he lives in New Jersey.
Hometown:Hoboken, New Jersey
Date of Birth:1972
Place of Birth:New Jersey
Education:B.A., Brown University, 1994
Read an Excerpt
You Know Me Well
By Nina LaCour, David Levithan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Nina LaCour and David Levithan
All rights reserved.
Right now, my parents think I'm sleeping on the couch at my best friend Ryan's house, safely tucked into a suburban silence. At the same time, Ryan's parents think he's in the top bunk in my bedroom, slumbering peacefully after a slow night of video games and TV. In reality, we're in the Castro, at a club called Happy Happy, kicking it up at the gaygantuan kickoff party for San Francisco's very own Pride Week. The whole spectrum is in attendance tonight, breathing in the rainbow air and dancing to the rainbow sounds. Ryan and I are underage, underexperienced, underdressed, and completely under the spell of the scene pressing up against us. Ryan looks a little bit scared, but he's trying to hide it under an arched brow and a smoke screen of sarcasm. If someone he doesn't like approaches us, he'll hold my hand to make himself seem taken, but otherwise it's hands-off. In the context of our relationship, this counts as logic: We are just friends except for the moments when, oops, we're more than just friends. We don't talk about these moments, and I think Ryan believes if we don't talk about them, then they haven't been happening. That's what he wants.
I don't know what I want, so mostly I go along.
It was my idea to come here, but I never would have been able to do it without Ryan at my side. I've stuck to the halls of our high school, living my out-to-everyone life pretty much the same as before everyone (including me) knew. Only now it's the last week of junior year, and it felt like it was time to take that forty-five-minute leap into the city. "Sweet sixteen and never been risked," Ryan calls my life — as if he's been sneaking out any more than I have. Luckily, I look older than I am — to the point that an opposing coach once wanted to see my records, to make sure I wasn't a college-age ringer. I don't have a fake ID or anything, but at a place like Happy Happy on the first night of Pride, it's not like they check. We just had to look like we knew what we were doing, and that got us in.
I was a little surprised when Ryan said he'd come, because he insists that his being gay is "nobody's business." Where this leaves me I'm not exactly sure. There are times I want to shake him and say, Dude, I'm the baseball player with the jock friends and you're the sensitive poet who edits the lit mag — shouldn't I be the one who's scared? But then I think I'm not being nice, or at least not being understanding, since Ryan has to figure things out for himself. There is no way whatsoever to figure things out for someone else. Even if he's your best friend who you always end up fooling around with.
It's really dark and there isn't much room to move. We're getting plenty of wolfish looks from other guys. When they're cute, I think Ryan likes it. But I feel awkward. Meeting someone new was not the reason I came here, although maybe it crossed Ryan's mind when he said yes. There are some guys at the party who look like what my dad would look like if he wore lots of leather, and there are others who look like they're auditioning for selfies. Everyone's sentences crash together to make this gigantic noise, and my thoughts overlap so much that all I can feel is their loudness.
The parties I've gone to before have been held in basements and school gyms. Now it's like I've walked into a wider, narrower world. Robyn is singing about dancing on her own, and people are verbing their bodies along to that. These are not the people I usually hang with. We are not in Brewster's rec room, watching a Giants game. This is not a beer crowd. Everyone here is a cocktail.
We're not quite at the bar and not quite on the dance floor. Ryan's about to say something, but a man with a camera interrupts by leaning in front of him and asking me who I am. He can't be older than thirty, but he has bright silver hair.
"Excuse me?" I shout over the noise.
"Who are you?" he asks again.
"I'm Mark," I say. "Why?"
"Do you model?"
Ryan snickers at this.
"No!" I answer.
"You should!" the guy says.
I'm thinking he can't be serious, but he takes out his card and gives it to me. Before I can say anything else, there's the pop-burst of a flash. I'm still blinking in the afterglow when the photographer touches my wrist and tells me to email him. Then he vanishes back into the crowd.
"What was that?" I ask Ryan.
"Are you talking to me?" he replies. "I'm afraid I'm currently invisible. Or at least I'm invisible to noted fashion photographers."
Ryan is just as cute as I am, but it's against the rules for me to tell him that.
I let the card drop to the floor and say, "Whatever."
Ryan bends down, picks it up, and hands it back.
"Keep it as a souvenir," he tells me. "I mean, it's not like you're actually going to do anything about it."
"Let's just say history is on my side."
Not untrue. I am shy. Sometimes painfully shy. And it's especially painful when someone reminds me about it.
"Can we look around some more?" I ask. "Maybe dance a little?"
"You know I don't dance."
What he means is: He doesn't dance when other people are watching. This was his excuse when I wanted to go to our junior prom together. It would have been a big step for us, and he looked at me like I'd asked if he wanted to make out in a shark tank. In front of his parents. Instead of saying we couldn't go to the prom because he wanted to keep us a secret, he wrapped his refusal in a blanket dismissal of dancing. I knew he wasn't going to put me through the indignity of watching him go with someone else — he wasn't going to try to live that lie, at least. But he wasn't going to go with me, either.
I ended up staying home instead. He came over and I thought he was going to make it up to me, but instead we watched There Will Be Blood. Then he went home.
I can understand not wanting to dance in front of everyone we know. I can see that's a big deal. But I was hoping it would be different here. I was hoping that being among all these happy, happy strangers would change the game.
"C'mon," I say, trying to keep my tone light. "It's Pride Week!"
Ryan's eye has already moved elsewhere. I follow his gaze to find this very pretty college guy in Clark Kent glasses and a simple blue T-shirt with a slight rip on the left shoulder. He'd be the apple of any bookworm's eye — he's much more Ryan's type than I'll ever be. He senses Ryan looking at him ... then senses me looking at him and meets my eye instead of Ryan's. I quickly look away.
"I saw him first," Ryan mutters. I think he might be joking, but something in the pit of my stomach tells me he's not. Then he says, "Oh man." I look back up, and Indie Bookstore Clark Kent has his arms around a boy who's wearing a ski hat even though it's June. Hat Boy leans in for a kiss and Clark gleefully obliges. If it were manga, hearts would be rising like balloons over their heads.
"Happy Happy is depressing depressing me," Ryan says. "You promised me fun. Where's the fun?"
That had been my big argument — it'll be fun. What I didn't add was that I thought the idea of sneaking out of my house, tiptoeing to the train, and coming into the city where no one else really knows us would be ... romantic, I guess. On the ride in, it was almost like that, like it was an adventure we were sharing. I pressed my leg against his and he didn't move away. We sat there making jokes and imagining the look on my mother's face if she checked up on us and found the room empty. (My mother gets upset when a pillow is out of place on the sofa.) I thought that people looking at us would see a couple, and I got a sense of confirmation from that.
Now I'm guessing we look like two friends. I probably look like Ryan's wingman.
"I want a drink," he declares.
"You'll get caught," I remind him.
"No, I won't. Have some faith. Some of us aren't Timid Timmys."
I follow him as he presses into the crowd and makes his way to the bar. I wonder what would happen if I stopped walking, if I let the crowd fill up the space between us. Would he notice? Would he wade back to find me? Or would he keep going, because forward is his destination and I am not?
I falter for a moment, and in that moment he reaches for my hand. As if he senses my doubts. As if he doesn't need to turn around to know exactly where I am. As if everything we've been through has at least constructed this connection, this much of a bridge.
"Stay with me," he says.
So I do. And when we get to the bar, Charming Ryan returns. The shadows fall from his mood. When the bartender comes over, Ryan tosses out his words like he knows they'll float into the ears of anyone who hears them. The bartender smiles; he can't help but like Ryan. This is the boy I fell for, about eight years after we first became friends. This is the boy who made me want to be who I am. This is the boy I can borrow my confidence from.
The bartender comes back with two flutes of champagne, and I can't help but laugh at how silly it is. Even though I don't drink, Ryan slides one of the glasses over to me.
"Just one sip," he says. "If you don't, it won't be a toast. It'll just be a burnt piece of bread."
I relent and raise my glass. We clink, and then I sip while he downs. When he's done, I give him mine to finish off.
"I wish you'd live a little," he says when the bubbly's been popped.
"What does that mean?" I ask, even though we've had this conversation before.
"It's not nothing."
"No, it is. It's precisely nothing."
"What's precisely nothing?"
"The degree to which you put yourself out there."
I have no idea why this has become the subject.
"What are you talking about? A failure to finish my champagne makes me — what? A Cowardly Connor?"
"It's not just that." He points his empty glass at the crowd. "This room is full of attractive men. You are a fine specimen of boyness. But you're not even looking around. You're not trying. That guy gave you a card you'll never use. Other guys keep looking at you. You could totally work it. But you don't want to."
"What would you have me do?" I spy the sign-up sheet next to his elbow. "Join the midnight underwear contest? Dance around on the bar?"
"Yes! That is exactly what I'd have you do!"
"So I can find a guy to hook up with?"
"Or talk to. Don't look at me that way — we're far from the only teenagers in this place. Mr. Right could be right here, right now."
Can't you see it's you? the part of me that should know better wants to ask. But that, too, is against the rules.
"Fine," I say, and before Ryan can say another word I am reaching across the bar for the clipboard. I pull the ever-present pen from his pocket and write my name down.
Ryan laughs. "No way. There's no way you'll follow through on that."
"Watch me," I say — even though I know he's right. I'm fine in the locker room, or with Ryan. But in public? In my underwear? That would seem about as likely as me going home with a girl.
Still, it's one thing for me to have it in my head that I'm not going to do it and quite another for Ryan to have it in his head. Because the more he insists I'm going to flake out, the more I want to prove him wrong. There's definitely a double standard here — there's no way he would do it, either. But I'm the one who's being dared.
We bicker along these lines for a few more minutes, and then it's midnight and the DJ is telling all the underwear contestants to make their way to the bar. The bartender puts all the names in an upturned pink wig, then yells my name out first, followed by nine others. The man next to me immediately starts to take off his clothes, exposing a steel-armor chest and graph-paper abs. I think I may have seen him swimming in the Olympics, or maybe it's his Speedo-shaped underwear that's tricking me. The bartender says we'll be starting in a minute.
"Now or never," Ryan tells me. From the way he says it, I can tell his money's on never.
I kick off my shoes. As Ryan watches, dumbstruck, I pull off my jeans, then remove my socks, because leaving my socks on would look ridiculous. I cannot give myself any time to think about what I'm doing. It feels strange to be standing barefoot in the middle of a packed club. The floor is sticky. I pull my shirt over my head.
I am in my underwear. Surrounded by strangers. I thought I'd be cold, but instead it's like I'm feeling the heat of the club more fully. All these bodies clouding the air. And me, right at the center of it.
I don't think I'd recognize myself, and that's okay.
The bartender calls out my name. I hand my shirt to Ryan and jump onto the bar.
My heart is pounding so hard I can hear it in my ears.
There are loud cheers, and the DJ throws Rihanna's "Umbrella" into the speakers. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I am standing on a bar in my red-and-blue boxer briefs, afraid I'll knock over people's drinks. Obligingly, the patrons pull their glasses down, and before I know what I'm doing I'm ... moving. I'm pretending I'm in my bedroom, dancing around in my underwear, because that is certainly something I do often enough. Just not with an audience. Not with people hooting and whistling. I am swiveling my hips and I am raising my hand in the air and I am singing along with the "-ella, -ella, -eh, -eh-." Most of all I am looking at the expression on Ryan's face, which is one of pure astonishment. I have never seen his smile so wide or so bright. I have never felt him so proud of me. He is whooping at the top of his lungs. I point at him and match his smile with my own. I dance with him, even though he's down there and I'm up here. I let everybody see how much I love him and he doesn't shy away from it, because for a moment he's not thinking about that — he's only thinking about me.
I take it all in. The world, from this vantage point, is crazybeautiful. I look around the crowd and see all these people enjoying themselves — having fun with me or making fun of me or imagining having fun with me. Pairs of guys and pairs of women. Young skateboarders and men who look like bank presidents on their day off. People from all over the Bay Area patchwork, many of them dancing along, some of them starting to throw money my way. Clark Kent's in the crowd, looking me over. When I see him, I swear he winks.
I feel my gaze pulling itself back to Ryan. I feel myself coming back to him. But along the way, someone else catches my eye. Before I can return to Ryan — while I'm still up there in my underwear, thinking he's the only person in this whole place who knows who I am — I see another face I know. It's like the song stops for a second, and I'm thrown. Because, yes, it has to be her. Here, in this gay bar, watching me dance near naked over a carpet of dollar bills.
The senior I sit next to in Calculus.CHAPTER 2
"Tell me about her again," I say.
I change lanes on the top deck of the Bay Bridge so that we get the best view of the city lights, even though June and Uma are kissing in the backseat, oblivious to the scenery, and Lehna is busy scrolling through her phone for the next song we should listen to.
She laughs. "I don't know if there's anything left to tell."
"It's okay if I've heard it before."
The first chords of "Divided" by Tegan and Sara start to play, and for a moment I remember what it felt like for Lehna and me to stand in the sea of girl-loving girls at their concert when we were in eighth grade, how I felt something deep in the core of my heart and my stomach that told me yes.
"She got home on Tuesday," Lehna says. "And she was pretty jet-lagged, but she told me she was used to traveling, not getting much sleep, keeping weird hours in general. When I talked to her on the phone she was sewing sequins onto a scarf. She says she likes to sparkle at Pride."
"Do I look too plain tonight? I am the opposite of sparkling."
Excerpted from You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan. Copyright © 2016 Nina LaCour and David Levithan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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