Chapter 3
Brittle as a Bird
“Oh yeah, Kid. That feels good.” The guy shoved my head down further on his dick. I
could tell he was getting ready to cum, and he was hoping to shoot his load in my
mouth. I know how to avoid it now. When I first started, guys were always shooting
their first load in my mouth. But now, I can tell when they are close. The head
expands and the shaft becomes hard as steel.

We were parked in an alley behind a warehouse about three blocks from Louie’s. I was
in an awkward position, leaning over the gear shift. I tried to get the guy to do it
outside behind a garbage bin, but he seemed frightened. I think he thought I was
setting him up to be robbed.

“Oh, Damn,” he moaned. That was my cue. I tried to pull my head up, but he shoved
it down and then exploded into my mouth. I gagged and pulled my head up before he
shot into my mouth again.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” he screamed when I spit his cum out onto the
floorboard of his car. He continued stroking his cock, draining it of the remaining cum.
He reached under the seat, pulled out a couple of paper towels and cleaned himself off.

“You son of a bitch,” he spat. “Look at the fucking mess you made on the floor.”

“I told you not to cum in my mouth!” I screamed back. “That’s going to cost you ten
bucks more.”

I had already received twenty dollars. I never went down on a guy unless he had paid
me first. I learned my lesson when I first started doing this shit. If you don’t collect
first, a guy will pull you out of his car and tell you to get lost. They know that nothing
will happen to them. What am I going to do? Call the cops and tell them a guy refused
to pay me for giving him a blowjob?

Hustling can be a dangerous game. No one protects us. The guys I have sex with sure
don’t give a damn about me. All they want to do is get off and then go home to their
wife, three kids and a dog. The police sure as hell don’t give a shit if I live or die.
Hustlers are just a nuisance to them. Where we work the streets, drugs and violence
follow.

I’ve been lucky so far. I try to be careful. I haven’t been beaten up by anyone. A few
have chased my ass down the street when they wanted to fuck me, but I refused to
let them do that.

As strange as it may seem, I want to save myself for the right guy. It’s the only thing
I really have to give someone. Sure, Uncle Billy fucked me, but that really didn’t count.
I was just a kid, and I didn’t know what I was doing. But since then, I’ve kept myself
intact until I meet the right guy.  

“Get the fuck out of my car, Kid.”  He unlocked the door and motioned for me to leave.

“You still owe me,” I insisted. “I told you if you wanted to cum in my mouth it would be
extra.” I crossed my arms and refused to leave. He gave me an angry look, took out
his wallet and tossed a ten into my lap. I guess he was afraid if we sat in the car any
longer, a police cruiser might pull into the alley.

“Fuck you,” he hissed as he tossed me the money. I got out of the car and flipped him
off before he drove away. I memorized the make of his car and the license plate
number. If he ever came back another night, I’d be sure not to get in his car again.

I walked to Louie’s and knocked on the back door. A clerk cracked the door open, and
I handed him a ten. He returned a few minutes later and handed me a paper bag with
two bottles of cheap wine.

As I headed home, a cruiser drove slowly down the street. I ducked into an alley. It
was past curfew; and since I was underage, I didn’t want them picking me up and
taking me home to my parents. My old man would probably tell them to keep me.

The house was locked when I returned. I went around to the side of the garage and
took a long piss. Once back inside, I lay on the bed in the corner of the garage and
pulled the cover over me.

Again, I feel a pity party coming on. I can’t control them. They consume me when they
hit. Even the wine and the weed I got earlier from Ticker aren’t helping. I get this
sensation that I’m falling, and it frightens the shit out of me. I close my eyes and it’s
always the same. I’m standing on the railings of a bridge with my arms out, and I can
see myself jump. I can feel the wind blowing in my face as my body drops toward the
ground.

It is like one of those shows where people are parachuting out of a plane, and they
have their arms open as they soar through the air just before pulling on the rip cord.
However, I don’t have a rip cord. My breathing quickens, and I close my eyes and
tremble before my body splatters on the ground. But I never hit. I just keep falling
and falling, waiting for something to happen. However, it never does.

That’s my life. I’m falling and falling, waiting for the end to hit me, but it never does.  
It’s a nightmare knowing that someday I will hit the bottom- hard. I don’t know when,
or where. However, one thing is sure- I will.

Fuck it. I can’t lie here like this. My mind is swirling from the wine and the weed, but it
hasn’t dulled my senses enough to sleep. It’s two in the morning and I have to get up
and go to school in a few hours. I’m going to look like shit again. What the fuck do I
care? What the fuck does anyone care?

I’m cold. I like being cold, though. It clears my head as I walk around the streets. A
few guys have tried to pick me up, but I’ve ignored them. Why are these guys driving
around so late at night trying to find someone to suck their dicks? I’d feel sorry for
them, but I got my own problems.

Damn, it just dawned on me. They’re probably just as fucked up as I am. They’re
probably out driving around lonely and depressed. The night brings out people like us;
people who are too afraid of going to sleep because of our nightmares. So we come
out searching. For what? Who knows? We just hope that something will come along
and end the fucking nightmares.

                                           **********

“You look like shit.” Ticker walked up and threw his arm around my shoulder. “More
nightmares?”

“Yeah,” I responded. Ticker knows that I have trouble sleeping. That’s why he is
always generous when he gives me bags of weed. I never told him the nature of the
sleeplessness, but I think he has figured it out long ago.

As we walked down the hall, two guys bumped roughly into me. I recognized them as
two of Gene Albright’s friends. In fact, they had been the guys who had tried to get
him to fight me the day before.

“Watch it Mother Fucker,” spat one as he shoved me again, only this time with his
hand. Ticker squeezed my shoulder tightly and tried to pull me away.

“Fuck you.” I turned and hissed loudly. He stopped and faced me.

“You’re going to get yours someday, Fag.” We stared at one another. Students
around us stopped getting books from their lockers and watched us. Again, they
could sense a fight.

“What’s your boyfriend going to do?” I replied sarcastically, looking at the guy
standing to his right. He clinched his fist, and I could tell he wanted to hit me.

“Not here,” the other said. “But soon.” He grabbed his friend by the arm and they
walked away. The warning bell for first period rang and students began to scatter.

“You all right?” Ticker asked. I looked at him and saw a worried look on his face.

“Yeah, I’m all right. Same shit, just a different place,” I replied sadly. I removed his
hand from my back and headed off slowly down the hallway.

“Fuck it.” I headed toward the exit.

God damn tears!  I’ve got goddamned tears in my eyes. I don’t cry anymore. Never!
But right now tears are running down my face.

I don’t even know where I’m going. I’m just walking. I feel like running, but my legs
won’t let me. I want to scream- and run. I want to run and scream down the street
until my body collapses on the sidewalk. But my body won’t run.

“Hey, Kid?” I look over and see a man who picked me up last week. “You looking for
some action?”

“Fuck you!” I scream, and then I run down the street. My body is finally moving. It’s
like I’m running in slow motion. People on the street stop and move out of my way
before I plow into them.

“Crazy kids!” I hear one old woman state as I go running past her.

I must have run for miles. I don’t know. It was probably just a few blocks. I look down
and see the river flowing by. There are a few ducks bobbing up and down in the water.
They are struggling to get over the next wave that carries them along.

I lean over the railing of the bridge, gasping for air. I look down and can see my body
falling, as in my nightmares. Only this time, it is real. I can actually do this. The
moment has come that I’ve been waiting for all my life. It has built up and reached the
acme of my life. And now it’s time for the fall.

“Go ahead.” I blink the tears quickly from my eyes, as I realize someone has
approached me and is standing several feet away. I look over and see a guy, probably
in his twenties, looking at me.

“What?” I asked angrily. His presence has interrupted my fate. The mood has quickly
left me and now I’m consumed with anger.

“Jump,” he challenges me. “Go for it.”

“Fuck you,” I shout and begin to walk away.

“Do it!” he screams. “Fucking do it!”

“Do it.” He begins to cry and then his body collapses against the bridge wall. I watch
as he sinks down and grabs his legs and pulls himself into a ball and weeps. “Do it.”
He mutters through his tears.

I watch as his body is wracked with anguish. He is shaking uncontrollably and is
sobbing violently. I stand in amazement and watch the crumbled guy before me.

I walk over to him and kneel down beside him. I don’t know what to do. He is a
stranger who just a minute earlier wanted to see me jump to my death.

“Why wouldn’t you do it?” He cries as he looks up pleadingly into my face.

“Why?” I ask.

“If you do it,” he sobs, “then maybe I’ll get the nerve to do it too.”  Once again, his
body shakes with emotion. “I come here everyday and I can’t bring myself to do it.”

Suddenly, I begin crying once again. I throw my arm around his shoulder and pull him
into my chest. He is so thin. I can feel his shoulder blades against my hand.

We sit for about ten minutes without speaking. Suddenly, he stands. Before I realize
what is happening, he grabs the rail and begins pulling himself up onto it.

“No!” I scream. I reach out and grab his thin body. We fall to the ground. I am
pressing my body into his, trying to keep him from getting up again.

“Let me do it!” He screams and thrusts his body under mine. “I want to die!”

I lean in and place my face against his. I whisper in his ear, “It’s okay. Everything’s
going to be all right.” Both of us are crying uncontrollably. I can feel his frail body
trying to get up, but he is too weak to exert much force. After a few minutes, I feel
his body collapse under mine. We both are exhausted.

“Let me up, please,” he insists after we have lain for several minutes.

“No,” I whisper weakly.

“I’m all right now,” he replies. “Please let me up. I can’t breathe with your body on
mine.”

I raise my body off his, but I keep a hand on his thin arm. For the first time I get a
good look at his face. It is thin and gaunt. He looks like he was a handsome boy at
one time. I didn’t know what had taken away his health, but I was sure it was the
reason he wanted to die.

Because of his frail appearance, it was hard to tell exactly how old he was. He could
have been sixteen or twenty six. I really couldn’t tell. He had brown hair and sunken
brown eyes. It appeared he hadn’t slept for weeks.

We sat up and rested our bodies against the wall of the bridge. Cars passed by us
and slowed down. A few even stopped and asked if we were all right. I’d nod, and then
motion for them to drive away.

“Thanks,” he says. He starts to get up, “I gotta go.”

“Wait.” I grab his arm and pull him back down. “You can’t just leave.”

“Why?” he asks. “Why do you care?”

I didn’t have an answer. Both of us had come to the bridge, each for his own reason.
Both of us wanted to end our lives. I felt a closeness with this frail guy that I’d never
experienced with anyone else. We had both shared our miserable lives with each
other. I couldn’t let him leave without at least finding out his story.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I just do.” He looked into my eyes. They seemed blank
and now emotionless.

“Well, don’t,” he said flatly. He stood and brushed himself off. He gave me a final look,
and then turned and started walking away.

“Hold up!” I shouted as I sprang to my feet. I followed closely behind him. He turned
and looked at me several times, but continued to slowly walk away. I looked at his thin
body. His tee shirt was draped over his shoulders, and he kept pulling his pants up on
his small waist.

When we crossed the bridge, he headed south. I continued to trail about six feet
behind him. I wasn’t going to let him just disappear from my life. I needed to know
what had just happened out on that lonely bridge. What had brought us together?

We walked a few blocks, and then he entered a small café. He approached the counter
and ordered a small coffee. He then turned to me.

“You want something?” he asked. “Since I can’t get rid of you, you might as well join
me.” For the first time since meeting him, I saw a slight smile on his face.

“A coke,” I answered. I reached into my pocket to take out a dollar, but he stopped
me.

“My treat,” he said. The waitress handed us our drinks and I followed him to a table at
the back of the café. Since it was late in the morning, we were the only ones there.

We sat for a moment in silence. Occasionally, he’d glance at me, but he mostly stared
at the steam rising from his cup. “My name is Allen. Allen Foster.” He extended his frail
hand across the table and shook mine. His grip was weak. I thought for a second that
I might break his hand when I grabbed it.

“I’m Joey Carpenter,” I replied. Again, he stared into my eyes. I could see the sadness
he hid behind the sunken brown eyes.

You don’t go through the shit I’ve been through and not be able to recognize it in
others. I didn’t know his story yet, but I could tell he had been though a similar pain
and suffering I’d been through. By the looks of his body, I was sure he’d suffered
much more physical pain than I had.

We sat again for several moments in awkward silence. My mind was racing to find out
his story, but I didn’t know how to go about asking. Finally, I decided that if I was
going to find out anything, I’d have to make it fast. His coffee had almost disappeared
from his cup.

“Why?” I asked.

“Why, what?” He looked at me. He knew what I was asking, but he was either trying to
be coy, or he didn’t want to talk about it.

“Never mind,” I said dejectedly. I felt it was none of my business why he wanted to
jump from the bridge. Besides, I didn’t want to tell him my reason, either. We sat for
several minutes before he finally spoke.

“I’m sick,” he whispered softly.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m just sick,” he stated. There were several more awkward moments before he spoke
again. “What’s your story?”

“My life is a fucking mess.” I looked at him and laughed nervously.

“Enough to die?” He stared intently at me for an answer.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

“I have to go.” He stood and looked down at me. “Thanks for being there today.”

“You too,” I smiled up at him. “Thanks.”  He started to walk away. I jumped up and
ran to catch up with him as he headed down the sidewalk.

“Can I see you again?”

“Why?”

“I just want to see you again. That’s all.”

“I’m here every morning,” he said. “Before I head for the bridge.” He nodded and
walked away. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I watched him slowly disappear down
the street.

After the affair at the bridge, I was exhausted. I had been physically and emotionally
drained. On the walk home, I couldn’t get Allen’s sad countenance out of my mind. It
had been years since I felt anything for anyone. Hell, I’m not sure I’d ever felt
emotionally for anyone, but Allen had touched me like no one before.

He had penetrated my soul, and it was an unsettling feeling. In the hour we had spent
with each other, I felt a connection. Maybe it was because I felt we shared an unhappy
past.

“I’m sick.” Those words haunted me. Not the words, but the way he said it. It was as
if he said it with a sense of doom. My life was fucked up, but at least I know I have
another tomorrow to make it through. I’m not sure Allen can say the same.

And if he was sick enough to die, then why didn’t he just wait and let it come to him?
Why does he go every morning to the bridge, hoping to muster up enough courage to
jump? I’m pretty sure that I had no intention of jumping today. I just wanted to see
what it felt like. You know, since I’ve been there in my dreams so often. I wanted to
experience the sensation of actual height. But would I have actually jumped?

The thing that unnerves me is I can’t answer with certainty that I would not want to
jump. I don’t have much of a future. Maybe I’m like Allen, just waiting for the guts to
take that final plunge, ending this madness. If I did, who the fuck would really care
anyway?

My folks would be pissed because they would have to deal with burying me. That could
be one reason to do it. I’d like to see the look on his face when he gets the bill. That
would serve him right. Shit, he’s never spent a dime on my ass for the past several
years anyway. It would be payback, and you know what they say about that.

I go home, after stopping by Louie’s and getting a couple bottles of happy juice. I’m
out of weed, so I’ll just have to drink myself to sleep. Fuck. It’s cold tonight. This thin
blanket I bought for a quarter at the thrift shop isn’t keeping my ass warm at all.

And Allen. I can’t get his fucking gaunt face out of my mind. Mother fucker had to
creep into my life. Now I want to know his story. No, I have to know his story. It’s
just what I wanted was one more thing to think about; as if my life isn’t already
fucked up enough.

                                               ********

“Can you tutor me after school today?” Star ran and grabbed my hand on the way to
first period. “We have a big paper due next week, and I could really, really, really use
your help.” She looked at me and gave me a puppy dog frown.

Again, it was a surprise to other students to see me walking hand in hand with a girl.
I think they would have been less shocked if it had been another guy. They would
have expected that.

“Sure,” I said. She squeezed my hand tighter. “You don’t understand British poets?”

“I don’t understand American ones,” she laughed.

I turned and held both her hands and recited, “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou
never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, pourest thy full heart in profuse strains of
unpremeditated art.”

“Show off,” she giggled as she slapped me on my arm. “Who was that? Tennyson?”

“Ouch,” I muttered. “You do need help. That was Shelly. Mr. Vickers covered him
yesterday.”

“A Spring Evening Churchyard?” She guessed timidly.

“Wrong,” I laughed. “To a Skylark. And it’s A Summer Evening Churchyard.”

“I told you I was failing,” she said sadly.

“How much of the paper do you have done?” We’d had the assignment for two weeks.
I had finished mine about three days after it was assigned. Most of it dealt with
interpreting the meaning of the poems. I found it to be quite easy.

“I’ve tried to read three of them.” She looked up and smiled, but it quickly disappeared
when she saw the stern look on my face.

“You’ve only read three?” I asked incredulously. “And did you do anything with them?”

“I threw the book across my bedroom,” she laughed. Suddenly, a frown appeared on
her face, followed by a stream of tears. I took her in my arms and comforted her.

It seemed strange, that for the second time in as many days, I was feeling a
connection with another person. First, Allen; and now Star. And the connection wasn’t
sexual or physical. Two people had come into my life, and I was sure it was not by
pure coincidence.

“Meet me in the library after school,” I told her. “We’ll study there and get you caught
up.”

“Thanks.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. It was the first time
someone had kissed me since I was about ten years old when my mother would kiss
me as she put me to bed. I kissed her quickly on the cheek and hurried away before
she could see the tears that were forming in my eyes.

After lunch, I was on my way to fifth period when I saw Billy Joe and Camilla walking
my way. They approached and stopped me. Camilla instantly grabbed my arm and
began rubbing it.

Billy Joe had a serious look on his face. “We gotta talk, Man.”

“What?” I asked as I pulled Camilla’s roving hand from my arm. Several students
began whispering as they noticed her action. I laughed inwardly because I knew their
image of me being the school faggot was being challenged.

“Word around school is that Gene Albright has it in for you,” he warned.

“No shit,” I laughed. “He got ten days because he wanted to kick my ass yesterday.”

“I’m serious, Joey,” he warned. “He’s a real homophobe. You better watch out. He’s
making a lot of threats. I was smoking last night with a guy who knows him pretty
well. He’s out to get you. You’d better watch your back.”

Billy Joe patted me on my back and walked away. Camilla rubbed my arm a final time
before giving me a small wave. She then ran up to Billy Joe and wrapped her arm
around his. If I had cared more, I would have wondered just what kind of a
relationship they had.

Star was waiting in the library after school. She was sitting toward the back, away
from most of the other students. She had her literature book open, and she was
chewing on her fingernails. She looked up and smiled at me when she saw me
approach.

I sat down, and we began to work on the areas where she was having trouble.
Unfortunately, it was the entire book of English literature.

“This is useless,” she sighed after about fifteen minutes. “It sounds like a foreign
language to me. Are you sure this is written in English?”

“It is a little difficult,” I confessed. She grabbed her book and pointed to a passage.

“Nymph of the downward smile, and sidelong glance, In what diviner moments of the
day art thou most lovely? Just what the hell does that mean?” She threw the book
down on the desk, making a loud crash. The librarian looked over at us and gave us a
look that only a librarian can make.

“That’s John Keats,” I said. “He’s admiring her beauty.”

“Why can’t he just say she’s pretty then?”

“Then it wouldn’t be great literature.”

“It wouldn’t be garbage.” Star slammed the book shut, earning us another of those
librarian looks. This time it was accompanied by a shushing sound.

“I give up,” she moaned as she put her head on the desk.

“Star!”

We both jumped when we heard a shout. I looked up and saw the boy who had tried
to get Gene Albright to fight me in the hall yesterday.

“I want to talk to you,” he insisted.

“Fuck off, Barry.” Star gave the boy an irritated look.

“I said I want to talk to you,” he said more adamantly. “Now!”

“And I said fuck off, Barry,” Star spat back. The librarian rose from here desk and
headed our way.

“Is there a problem over here?” She stood challengingly in front of the guy who had
intruded our study session.

“This boy is bothering us,” Star replied, emphasizing the word boy.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Young Man,” insisted the librarian.

“This ain’t over.” He pointed an angry finger at me before storming away. I couldn’t
figure out why he had decided to come into the library after school and disturb us.

“Sorry about that,” Star said timidly.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“My brother, Barry.”

“What’s his problem?”

“He doesn’t want me associating with you,” she replied. “He’s Gene’s best friend. We
live next door to Gene. He and Barry have been friends since like forever.”

“So your brother is a gay basher just like Gene?” I asked.

“Barry does what ever Gene tells him to do,” she replied. “If he told him to jump off
the roof of the school, Barry would do it.”

“How do you put up with such an asshole for a brother?”

“I just tell him to fuck off,” she giggled.

“I noticed.”  Becoming serious, I asked, “Have you heard anything about Gene wanting
to do something to me?”

“I haven’t heard anything, Why?”

“Someone warned me that Gene was planning something.”

“I’ll keep my ears open,” she assured me. “If I hear anything I’ll let you know.”

“I don’t want to come between you and your brother,” I insisted.

“You won’t,” she answered sadly. “We haven’t been close in years.”

She gathered her books and put them in her book bag. “Thanks for helping me.”

“We didn’t get much accomplished today,” I reminded her.

“It’s still nice that you wanted to. Thanks.” She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and
left the library. I looked around and noticed a few students watching me. I got up,
flipped them off and walked away.


Chapter 4                                   Return to TMJ