simon and baz are on the track team together. tw: homophobia, homophobic slurs, cursing.
Simon couldn’t deny it. No matter how much he loved feeling the oxygen rush in and out of his lungs, the wind whip against his face, the tight pull of his hair strung back with a rubber band, the burning in his calves, there was one thing he loved the most about running track, and that was winning. The moment when he passed someone a few paces in front of him just before he crossed the finish line, his thresh hold of glory, was the most exhilarating experience he’d found so far in his seventeen year life. Sweat dripped down his forehead and pooled above his brow bone as he bore down into the final sprint, eyes locked on the blue-jerseyed runner in front of him. The only person between him and first place. The only person between him and his next blue ribbon.
He forgot he was running when this happened, forgot he was breathing, forgot he was moving or hurting or even alive. It was just him and Blue Jersey, fighting for the title. It was no longer about a place in the next run, because the top ten got to advance. It was a primal need somewhere deep in Simon’s head, and he needed victory more than he needed the air he was sucking in deeper and deeper with every second.
Simon was gaining on him with every second until they were running steady with each other, shoulder to shoulder. For a second, there was an air of cameraderie, a shared moment of brotherhood. The briefest acknowledgement that they both deserved this. But then Simon took off even faster than before, because no matter who deserved first, only one person could have it, and it was going to be him.
He collapsed onto the ground seconds after his feet flew over the finish line, clutching his stomach as he hurled up his lunch into the bushes. The vaguest remnants of a grilled cheese sandwich and a red Powerade splattered onto the ground, and Simon heard Blue Jersey rush past him and collapse similarly, coughing like a smoker. Two more people passed, and Simon didn’t move, hands still pressed against his stomach in pain. Then he felt long, bony fingers massaging his shoulders, and he knew Baz had crossed the finish line.
“I’m going to regionals, Simon! We’re going together!” Baz celebrated behind him, panting, and Simon managed a weak nod. “Fifth place, can you believe it?”
“You did great, Baz,” Simon breathed, forcing himself up from the ground and wiping his mouth on the shoulder of his t-shirt. “Coach is gonna be thrilled. You must’ve beat your best time.”
“I’m sure I did,” Baz agreed, taking a few steps forward and plunging his arm deep into the water cooler. “Want one?”
Simon nodded. Baz handed him a water, ice cold and dripping, and Simon uncapped it and poured half of it on the top of his head, letting it run in rivulets down the back of his neck and his face. Then he drained the bottle and crumpled it up, tossing it back into the cooler.
“Better?” Baz asked, sipping his water. His breath was mostly back by now, but Simon was still heaving.
“Yeah, much. Let’s go find a spot to watch the girls’ race.”
When Simon entered the bus for the ride back to school, he was met with cheers. The bus was already mostly full, and Baz waved from the back. “Our champ!” Simon heard as he passed by seats, meandering toward Baz. “First place winner, once again!”
The entire vehicle stank like teenage boys and BO, but it was a party. They made toasts with their water bottles, crankled up the music so loud on Dev’s Bluetooth speaker that it blew out and broke, and generally gave the bus driver a run for his money. Who could blame them? They hadn’t taken more than one person to regionals in years, hadn’t had a runner like Simon on the team in far longer than that.
It was dark when they pulled into the parking lot, teeming with the cars of parents here to pick up their kids. Coach Davy stood up at the front of the bus and quieted them all by raising his hands. “Listen guys,” he began. “I’d just like to say how proud I am of all of you, even the ones who didn’t make it into the top ten. We’ve had a fantastic year and I’m looking forward to taking four runners this year. But our work isn’t over yet. Remember, the practice schedule for the next two weeks is rigorous and not flexible. Especially for the regionals runners, you must show up to every practice unless you’ve got a doctors note. That’s all! Have a good night.” He sat down, making way for the flood of teens to exit the bus.
Simon and Baz lagged back and pretended to collect their things while the others filed off. “You coming home with us tonight?” Simon asked Baz.
“I was planning on it, yeah.” Baz slung his bag over his shoulderand stood up, taking his place at the end of the line.
“My room’s a mess,” Simon warned. He stood behind Baz and wrapped his hands around Baz’s backpack straps, tugging. Baz snickered.
“You’re a mess, Snow,” he replied. Baz reached behind his back and found Simon’s hand fleetingly. He gave it a gentle squeeze before retracting and shoving his hands back into his sweatshirt pockets. The line began to move.
In the passenger seat of his dad’s beat up Sedan, Simon listened for the millionth time to the Humility Speech. “Yes, you’re good, but that doesn’t mean you’re invincible, you hear me? You hear me?” Baz stifled a laugh in the back as Davy’s voice grew more and more urgent. “Simon Oliver, are you listening to me? You are not the king of the track. One of these days you’re gonna lose if you don’t take this shit seriously. You missed three days of practice this month. That’s unacceptable. You’re not a god, Simon. Do you understand? You don’t get a full ride for a second place title.”
This was a routine for Simon- run, win, take Baz home, get the Humility Speech, force feed himself pasta (for the carbs), early morning practice with Baz, rinse, repeat. That was what Davy thought at least.
Here’s how the routine really went- run, win, take Baz home, laugh his way through the Humility Speech, feed Baz half his pasta, make out sessions until it got light out, cuddling until five in the morning, pretending to go for an early morning run and really taking Baz out for early breakfast at the diner, where all the waitresses knew their names and orders. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.
Davy finished talking a minute before their driveway appeared, and Simon felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He checked it, amused that it was Baz’s name on the screen. He’s finally done, eh?
As if you’d forgotten since your last race
Lmao, Simon typed back. Can’t wait til he goes to bed ;)
And why would that be?
Because I want to celebrate ;)
Quit it with the wink faces, Si. I feel like I’m talking to a preteen who just copped his first feel. Lol.
Simon chuckled, then tucked the phone back into his pants pocket as they pulled up the drive. Gravel crunched underneath the car tires, and it scratched to a stop at the top. Simon’s house sat on a hill. It was dark brown, with warm yellow light coming from the living room windows and illuminating the well-manicured lawn. It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small. A good size for a single father and his son. In the front there was a small, sickly looking crabapple tree that Davy had been trying to tear up for years. Simon would never let him.
They carted their bags up the porch stairs. The inside of the house smelled like pulled pork, and Simon realized how hungry he was. He’d forgotten that Davy had prepared something in the crock pot. The smell made his stomach growl. “Let’s put our bags up in my room and eat, shall we?” Simon asked Baz.
“Sounds like a plan.”
The stairs were shiny hardwood, and the upstairs floor was small, with only a bathroom and Simon’s room. The door was already ajar, and sure enough, the room looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in several months. “Simon,” Baz chastised. “I just helped you tidy this place up last time I was over.”
“You know how I get, Basil,” Simon protested, throwing his bag onto his full sized mattress and rumpling up the blankets. He tossed his sweaty sneakers into a corner and grabbed a shirt off the floor to change into.
“Glasses?” Baz asked, plucking them from the hazardous mess of Simon’s vanity and shutting the door with his foot.
“Sure,” Simon said, slipping his jersey over his head. He let it fall to the floor, like everything else already was, then stepped toward Baz to retrieve the glasses.
“Allow me,” Baz smirked, slipping the glasses onto Simon’s face and settling them onto his nose. He leaned his head down and pressed his forehead against Simon’s, closing his eyes. Simon’s hands wound around Baz’s trim waist and danced their way up the hem of his shirt, fingers pressing against the knobbly joints of Baz’s spine, and their lips met, soft as spring rain.
The kiss was gentle, and they enjoyed it for itself, as it wasn’t going to lead to anything else at the moment. Baz tasted like peppermint gum and he smelled like cedar and bergamot, his signature cologne. Simon ran his tongue quickly over Baz’s bottom lip, then pulled away, grinning like a fool.
“We should get downstairs,” he whispered, but then one of Baz’s hands was cold and sure against Simon’s chest, tracing down to his stomach, and the other was knotted in his golden hair, and his brain took a flying leap out the window.
“Few more seconds,” Baz mumbled, pressing a lazy kiss to the space behind Simon’s ear. “Few more minutes.” Their chests pressed together and they kissed again, longer, with a strained kind of urgency that knew it couldn’t last long.
“I love you,” Simon said to Baz, tugging at a loose tendril of hair that had fallen around his dark, angular face. He kissed Baz’s cheek, then his nose, then his lips again, and Baz leaned, mindless, into Simon’s touch.
“Simon,” Davy called out, flinging open the door. “You forgot your-”
The gym bag Davy held fell to the floor. Baz immediately disentangled from Simon’s arms and flung himself back onto the bed, but it was too late. The door slammed shut, and all Simon could do was cry.
Hitchhiking was never a smart idea, even as a 6’ 1" eighteen year old man, but Baz needed a ride home, which Davy had not-so-gracefully declined to give him. His fahter was away on business and Daphne was visiting her sister, so here he found himself, late at night, wandering down the road with his thumb up. Cars passed him, but none stopped. And then it began to drizzle.
Davy had nothing to say, Simon surmised. That was the way it seemed, because they hadn’t spoken in days. He’d missed practice to stay after and do schoolwork just to avoid his father twice already, and he had no intentions of going today.
“You can’t let him push you away from what you love,” Baz told Simon at lunch, hooking his ankle around Simon’s under the table. “Running is what you were made for.”
“I can’t be around him. He’s got this dead look in his eyes Baz, you don’t understand. He hasn’t said a word to me. I’m nothing. I could win the national title for Christs’ sake, he wouldn’t give a shit.” He pushed the spaghetti on his tray around with his plastic fork. For the first time he could remember, Simon had no appetite.
“Look, Si, your dad is being a huge dick, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop living. Running is what you love best. Everyone knows that. Please go to practice. For me?”
“I can’t, Baz. I can’t face him.” The bell rang, and Simon got up from the table without meeting Baz’s gaze. “I hope you can understand.” He dumped his tray and went to class. Baz watched him go.
The crowd at regionals was wild for a track meet. Simon hadn’t practiced in two weeks, had barely spoken to Baz. He seemed to be a husk, going through the motions. They’d just sit there in silence when they were alone, Simon crying, Baz holding on as tight as he could to Simon’s hand, for fear he might lose him if he let go. But today was the big day, and Simon couldn’t miss it. This was his moment. Baz was determined to get him there.
He skipped out on the team bus ride, instead electing to drive his own car over to Simon’s after he knew the rest of the team had left and taken Coach Davy with them. When Baz honked the horn, Simon emerged, bleary-eyed and in pajamas, on the porch. Baz beeped again, to the tune of Jingle Bells, and Simon smiled. “Get in, babe. You’ve got a race to win.”
Simon denied that he wanted to race, but Baz knew he wouldn’t have gotten in the car if he didn’t secretly need it. When they arrived to the packed venue, he was practically shaking with anticipation. Simon shrugged out of his dirty sweatshirt and slipped on his jersey, tied his hair back. Baz recognized the determined gleam in his eye. “You ready to get out there and show them how it’s done?” Baz asked.
“I’m not wearing uniform shorts,” Simon protested. “And I haven’t run in weeks.”
“Who gives a shit?” Baz countered. And honestly? Didn’t that just sum up everything. Simon kissed Baz, slow and deep, then exited the car.
“Let’s fuck shit up.”
“Fag.” Simon heard it first from behind him, just a whisper. He whipped his head around, but it was impossible to tell who had said it. He and Baz had walked to their spots holding hands.
“Who gives a shit,” Simon muttered to himself, a personal mantra. “Who gives a shit, who gives a shit.”
“Faggot. Fucking queer.”
“Who gives a shit? Who gives a shit? Who the fuck cares?” Simon was yelling now, glaring all around him.
It was Blue Jersey. The insults were emanating from him, and he grinned, until Simon caught him in the act.
“Think you can throw me off my game? Well you know what, asshole?” Simon hissed menacingly, face flushed. He got up close to the kid’s face, almost nose to nose, and stared him down. “This faggot’s gonna win the regionals first place title. And you’re gonna fucking watch.”
Blue Jersey gulped.
The gunshot seemed louder than ever, but Simon didn’t hesitate a second as the sound reverberated in his ears. His feet pounded against the grass. He had more energy than he’d ever had at the beginning of a race. His anger fueled him as he thundered through the crowd of boys, clearing a path straight for the front. He flipped off Blue Jersey on the way, smiling, sickly sweet, as he took his rightful place at the head of the pack. He didn’t slow down one step.
This time, there was no competition.
Simon lead the runners with a wide berth. His legs went miles in a single stride, his lungs were open gulleys swallowing air by the ton. He was a god, and holy fucking shit, it felt good to be unbreakable.
“I’m made of fucking diamonds, you can’t touch me,” he panted as the finish line came into view. “I am fucking invinceable. Who gives a shit?” He was practically screaming now, every muscle in his body on fire, every inch of him drenched in sweat but it wasn’t sweat, it was liquid fucking gold and he was crossing, he was first, he was the winner, he was raising his arms for the crowd and they screamed his name, he was laughing, he was smiling, he was descended from Mount fucking Olympus and Baz was a king and when Baz came in second, they kissed in front of everyone. And maybe there was a collective gasp, and maybe Davy held his head in his hands, and maybe Blue Jersey cried when he got home. But you know what? Who gives a shit.
JFK grew up in a household devoted to athletic activity. He swam and played golf and football for the junior varsity at Harvard and tried his hand at boxing.
In later years, he remained an accomplished golfer and, despite chronic back pain, he continued to enjoy football, tennis, and softball with family and friends, and to sail Victura, his 26-foot sloop in the Nantucket Sound.
As President, JFK challenged the nation to become more active. He challenged the Marines to walk 50 miles in 20 hours, and high school students to earn awards from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Here’s a clip of JFK playing football at the Kennedy family home in Hyannisport, from home movie footage taken by friend Paul Fay. Video from the JFK Library.
We’re celebrating the centennial of JFK’s birth throughout 2017 and this month’s #JFK100 theme is “candid photos.” Join us for more JFK100 every week!
Welp, this is gonna (probably) be my final addition to the Trilogy of Living Tombstone Edits. The previoustwo were pretty nice so I decided to make what is now my favorite out of the trilogy. I hope you can enjoy!