They were thirteen-and -a-half years old, on the cusp of puberty. Tony’s hair was long and often fell over his eyes, no matter how he attempted to tame it or tie it. Oscar secretly loved to play with it whenever the two were alone and away from judging eyes. It was his best friend’s best claim to fame within their friendship group- Tony has the best hair, but Oscar is the fastest runner and Jack is the tallest.
Oscar’s hair at that age was fine and fair, but greasy as hell- a side effect of all the basketball the trio (and often duo) would play at every available waking moment, then over again in their dreams.
A typical day started with Tony and Oscar walking to school, like this:
‘Dude, totally need to brush up on my moves. I can’t believe I missed that final shot.’ Tony mimicked the failed final shot with the basketball he dribbled in front of them as they walked.
‘Same. Hey man- you wanna come over to my place after school?’ The question barely merited asking- it was tradition, blind and simple and wonderful.
‘Of course!’ Tony threw the ball up in the air and caught it again just as fast, the triumphant smile on his face showcasing his dimples, a look that Oscar would later place as ‘cute’, but for now simply making him feel uncomfortable.
Guys don’t think about other guys like that…
The afternoon was the beginning of summer, so it was hot as hell and Oscar’s hair was plastered to his face with sweat as he tried to slam-dunk the ball into the hoop, not being quite tall enough. That was another uncomfortable thing about Tony- though he and Oscar were the same age, Tony was a good head taller and built like a lean, mean, basketball-perfecting machine. His dark skin glistened with sweat, and he looked like a young stereotype in the making- well on the way to a scholarship, if his sporting prowess continued on this course. His afro bounced rhythmically around his face as his brow furrowed in concentration as he played around the court, shooting from every possible angle and perhaps a few impossible ones. It was a lot to take in and compete with simultaneously, and a small part of Oscar wanted to simply sit on the bench and watch his best friend in action. Was that weird?
Taking a breather on the sidelines, he indulged in this part of himself from afar, watching his best friend shoot hoops and be utterly satisfied with his life- as if not a complicated thought had ever entered his mind, and his life was so easy…
‘AAAAND HE SHOOTS…’ Tony was throwing ball after ball, hitting the hoop every time from the opposite end of the court. ‘AAAAAAND HE SCORES!’ After the fifth perfect score, Tony started jumping up and down, pretending to hold up a trophy- ‘A HISTORIC MOMENT FOR THE REDHAWKS!’
‘THE CROWD GOES WILD!’ Cheered Oscar from the sidelines, leaping up and pretending to interview his best friend on his amazing victory: ‘Well Tony, it looks like you’ve just smashed a world record into a thousand tiny pieces and are dancing in the chaos, what are you gonna do next?!’
‘I’m gonna go home, take a shower, and take my girl out for a ride with the guys!’ Tony’s dimples were showing as something inside Oscar’s heart, something he couldn’t quite name or come to terms with, broke. He forced a smile as he then took on the role of celebrating teammate,
‘YEAAAAHHH! YEEAAAAHHHHH!’ He pretended to hold up half of the massive trophy Tony was hypothetically holding, before the two broke away entirely and ran at each other from opposite ends of the court, doing a chest bump that knocked the breath out of the both of them, which in turn caused them both to laugh as they lay in a considerable amount of pain and mirth from their fantasy, a fantasy that they knew would be reality one day- with the powers of Tony’s amazing hair, and Oscar’s fantastical ability to run, there was little that could stop the young boys from climbing to the top.
There they lay, laughing and clutching their aching stomachs side-by-side on the tarmac, and Oscar’s fingers found Tony’s soft, soft hair and for some stupid reason it eased the ache he felt in his heart. Just a little. Why should he be so scared of his best friend getting a girl? Going out with one? Oscar wanted to do the same thing, after all, didn’t he?
Of course, boys are fickle and rarely see what they want until they’re looking at the rear end of it. Oscar could see the girl in his minds eye- a smart, pretty girl. The kind of girl who passes all the tests and looks at you weirdly in the halls because you ‘smell like a jock’, but looks at Tony like he hung the moon in the centre of the stars. God, what’s happening in my head? Thought Oscar as he (for reasons unknown to even himself) moved closer to his best friend as they both ceased laughter.
Tony rested his head on Oscar’s shoulder as the sky started to turn orange in the dusk and grinned. Dimples. That was the damned cause of any confusion of Oscar’s, he was sure. Dimples reminded him of his mom’s face when he was a child, coming in from mini-playoffs with Tony, her smiling when she gave them both popsicle sticks.
Oscar hadn’t realised he was staring at Tony’s lips and leaning in. Nor had Tony quite realised that he was looking at Oscar’s lips and leaning in. In fact, it was safe to say that when their lips finally met, it was a complete accident. Yes, yes. A complete accident. What else would it be?
Both of their bodies tensed at the sheer awkwardness of it all, yet felt oddly… Right. Neither of them had ever kissed before, and so there was much confusion as to how to make it interesting, now that it was actually happening. To move your lips, should you move your head? Do you even want to involve your tongue in this bullshit?
Well, apparently Tony thought it was worth a go, because before Oscar knew it there was something in his mouth that didn’t belong to him, that still moved with a life of it’s own that excited him. He let out a strange, strange noise somewhere deep in the back of his throat and allowed both of his hands to tangle in Tony’s curls, while Tony wrapped his arms around his best friend to bring him closer.
When they finally broke apart, both were blushing and Oscar was shaking- half with excitement, half with shame. His mother was calling them in for dinner and asking if he’d like to stay.
He won’t want to stay after that, thought Oscar as he fought the urge to bury his head in his hands and cry. He’s gonna think I’m weird. He’s gonna hate me. Shit.
‘I’d love to!’ Tony grinned, not taking his eyes off of Oscar as he got up. ‘Race you to the door, small-fry!’
‘You’re on!’ Oscar chuckled with relief once again, and the two set off into the warmth of the house, their friendship changed and yet strengthened forever.