Three at a Time, Four at a Time

My boyfriend takes the stairs three at a time because he is an athlete and he is a man. The lunch bell rings and he takes off and the tubes of his long silky basketball shorts rub. He fires past the other boys, pushes the twins to the ground, bounds skyward in triplicate. Hup, hup, hup, hup, on the 200 level in four strides. He pants and I swoon and my girlfriends look at me, so jealous and wanting.

Well my boyfriend takes them four at a time. He attended a soccer clinic over the summer taught by a former professional and he came back twice as lithe and limber. Your boyfriend huffs and sweats and my boyfriend laughs. The second bell fires and there he goes, a lightning streak on the concrete patio, roaring up those metal stairs by four — one, two, three and he’s done. Looking down on the other boys, the drop of sweat on his forehead. He wipes it with the bottom of his t-shirt and we see the new hairs under his belly button. Coo all you like, girls. He knows he’s mine.

Well, I didn’t have to say it before, but if he’s really pushed and has proper motivation my boyfriend can do five stairs at a time.

Wait, what?

Just do it, okay? You can do it. It’s just two more than three. Jump faster or whatever.

I don’t think I can. I don’t want to.

Are you serious?

Why are we doing this?

We’re done if you don’t do five at a time. Done. Breaking up. I’ll go out with Douglas next. Or James. I don’t care. Anyone but you if you humiliate me in front of my girlfriends.

Come on.

Do it.


My boyfriend takes the stairs five at a time because he is the most athletic boy in the grade. He stretches his lean legs in his silky shorts, deep breaths, crosses himself, kisses his hand, holds it to god. Vice Principal Graves yells that we’re all late for fifth period and we make him think he does not exist. My boyfriend’s eyes lock on the stairs and he ignites, a bullet to his target, he springs skyward and past two, three four — five! and clang! Right knee hammers the stair, instant bumblebee bruise. But the left shoe cleared stair five. He did five! I told you all, my boyfriend does five.

So my boyfriend will do six. Who cares about five? Five is peanuts, it’s limp, it’s nothing.

What are you talking about? I can’t do six.

Do six.

I can’t.

Just do six. I insist.

Please, do not make me do six. Let me do anything else. Paint my nails. Braid my hair.

It’s an ultimatum. Six.


No girlfriend.

My boyfriend rubs his face like he’s kneading dough. Stares into the trees, face red and flat. Eyes dead. An adult’s eyes. I’m making a man of him. My dad says a man makes tough decisions. He does hard things and hopes he gets it right. My boyfriend whips around and charges for the stairs. Kids clear the way and watch and he launches his long legs up into the air and my heart swells and our class holds our collective breath and crack! His left shin shatters. Hammer to a fluorescent light tube. His leg a horrible slime purple mess of knotted skin and ungraphable angles. He’s on his back, head at the bottom. But his right shoe rests on step number six. My man did it.

And so seven shall be done. Boyfriend?

What? No.

Seven shall be done.

Kids have come out from their classrooms. All eighteen-hundred students crowd the staircase. Seven, they chant. Seven. Seven.

I am going to die, my boyfriend says, and I know I love him. He has accepted the hard truth of life. He is a man. My boyfriend’s friends hug him and kiss his cheek and share stories of the times they laughed. Vice Principal Graves reads my boyfriend his last rites from a yellowed page from his wallet. The chanting stops and it’s just the wind whispering. My boyfriend shuts his eyes and runs so hard, so mad at that staircase, but as he takes off into the sky his face brightens and he knows joy for a moment, the joy of a challenge, of achievement, and his last outfit’s a smile as he slams his forehead into that top stair and dies in a pop-geyser of hot blood.

The janitor folds him into the trash and fifth period begins.

My boyfriend gave me more than your boyfriend or your boyfriend or your boyfriend ever will. He gave himself for me, and for the rest of my life I’ll never again know true love like we had.

But all of you will never know it at all.