Taking Off the Mask
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without
and know we cannot live within.  -James Baldwin
Chapter 10
I tossed and turned all night. Donovan’s ominous email upset me. I knew he wasn’t the
kind of guy who was going to let this go. He’d been used to having his way his whole life,
and now I had embarrassed him in front of his friends. I was afraid he was going to get
even with me just to save face.

As I was eating breakfast, someone knocked on the door. “James, get that will you?” My
mother hollered from her office. She had gotten up early and started working. By now,
she had probably visited every gay website on the internet. When she puts herself into a
project, she becomes consumed by it. Janet and I probably won’t see her for several
weeks.

I opened the door, and I almost didn’t recognize Jackie. She had completely changed her
appearance. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans and a low cut blouse, revealing a very
large cleavage. Her hair was curled and highlighted with a blond tint. She wasn’t wearing
her glasses! In all the years I had known her, she never took them off. She had also
applied some makeup, without overdoing it and looking clownish.

She looked hot! All these years she had covered up the natural beauty that she
possessed. I guess all she needed was a reason to look good. I started grinning,
knowing that Roy was the reason for her sudden transformation.

“What?” she asked.

“Look at you!” I walked out onto the porch and circled her. “Wow, Jackie. You clean up
really nice.”

“Do I look good?” she asked hopefully.

“You look like a model.” A wide grin appeared on her face. “So what’s the occasion?”
I figured I might as well tease her since she seemed to be in a really good mood.

“No, reason.” Her face began to redden. “Mom just thought it was time I dressed more
like a girl.”

“Your mother has been away on a business trip all week,” I reminded her. She blushed
even more. “Could a boy named Roy have something to do with this?”

“Don’t be silly, James,” she said embarrassedly. “Can’t I just want to look good?” She
pushed past me and hurried into the kitchen. My mother was at the table, drinking a cup
of coffee.

“My God, Jackie!” My mother appeared stunned by Jackie’s new appearance. “Look at
you. You look beautiful!”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hoskins,” replied Jackie.

“She’s in love.” I laughed. Jackie hit me on my arm.

“You don’t have to tell me that, James,” my mother answered. “A girl doesn’t change her
appearance unless she‘s trying to impress a boy.” She grabbed Jackie’s hand and led her
from the kitchen. “Come with me. I think I have a necklace that will go perfect with that
blouse.”

When they emerged from my mother’s bedroom ten minutes later, Jackie not only had
on a necklace, but she was wearing one of my mother’s favorite blouses. It was black
silk, and tighter than the one she was previously wearing. Poor Roy was going to be
caught- hook, line and sinker.

I couldn’t believe it when we arrived at school. As we walked down the hallway, guys who
yesterday wouldn’t have given Jackie the time of day, turned and stared as we walked
by. I looked over at her and could tell that she was really enjoying her newfound
attention. I giggled when she’d toss her head back and push her hair away from her
eyes.

We were standing at her locker when Roy walked up. He stopped and his mouth dropped
as Jackie turned and coyly said, “Why hello, Roy. How are you this morning?”

I couldn’t contain my laughter as he tried to say something. Finally, he just let out a low
whistle and said, “Damn Jackie. You look hot.”

“Who me?” she responded playfully. “I just threw this together this morning. It’s
nothing special.”

She shut her locker and started to walk away. Roy ran up beside her, grabbed her books
and put his arm around her waist. Students turned and stared as they walked together
down the hallway. I guess they would be the topic of conversation the rest of the day.

After second period I stopped by the boys’ restroom to relieve myself. As I was standing
at the urinal, Dion stepped up beside me. The urinals have no partition between them,
so I glanced down as he pulled out his cock and started pissing. It was a nice uncut cock
with bushy black pubic hairs. It was larger than mine. When I looked up, he was staring
at my cock. He raised his head, and our eyes met.

We stared at each other for a few seconds before he looked away. I watched him shake
his thickening cock and place it back inside his pants. He quickly left the room without
saying anything. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. We had just checked each
other out! It wasn’t unusual for me since I was gay; but why had Dion stared at me?  
Was he just curious or was more involved than just an inquisitive look? We had only
stared into each other’s eyes for just a few seconds, but I seemed to feel that there was
some connection. Maybe I was just hoping there was. He probably thought I was some
kind of a pervert for staring at his dick.

When I went to lunch, Jackie and Roy were sitting together at our table. Their bodies
were pressed closely together, and they were deep into a conversation. They both
looked up and smiled when I sat down.

“Hey guys.” I unwrapped a dry ham sandwich. I looked over and they had both returned
to their conversation without even acknowledging me. It was going to be a long lunch. I
sat and nibbled at my food and watched them talking to one another. They seemed to
really be enjoying each other’s company. I guess the adage, love at first sight, really did
apply in this situation. They were talking comfortably, like they had known each other for
years.

I was beginning to get jealous. Jackie and I had practically been sewn at the hips since
first grade. Now that she apparently had a boyfriend, and I was afraid there would no
longer be a place for me in her life.

“So, would you like to go with us?” I looked up and realized that Roy had asked me a
question.

“What?” I asked.

“Do you want to go to the movies with us this Saturday night?” Jackie gave me a
pleading look. I didn’t know if she wanted me to say yes or no.

“Um, sure, I guess,” I replied. Jackie sighed and mouthed, ‘thank you.’ I looked at her
and shrugged my shoulders. Girls. I figured she would have died for the opportunity to
be alone on a date with Roy, instead of having me tag along and being in the way.

The lunch period was almost over when Donovan walked over and sat down. He stared
angrily at me and then at Roy.

“So you’ve decided to eat at the losers’ table?” he asked Roy. Then he turned to me,
“Did you get my message, Bitch?”

“Leave him alone, Donovan.” Roy leaned across the table and looked threateningly into
Donovan’s eyes. “Why don’t you just crawl under the rock you came from?”

“So it’s like this, huh?” He continued to stare angrily at Roy. “You fucking him now?”

Roy rose and slammed his hand against the table. Everyone around us stopped and
looked. “I’m warning you Donovan. Leave James alone.”

“Fuck you, Roy.” Donovan stood and stared down at Roy. I think he was expecting him
to get up and fight him. Realizing he wasn’t, he stormed away and returned to his table.

“He’s got some serious issues,” Roy spat. “I don’t know why I was his friend for so long.”

“Do you think he’ll do anything more to James?” asked Jackie worriedly. Roy looked
questioningly at me. I assumed he didn’t know if I had talked to Jackie about what
happened.

“She knows,” I informed him. “Everything.” I added.

“I’m not sure what Donovan is capable of doing anymore,” he replied. “Since he’s
become so popular, he’s changed. He thinks the world should bow down and kiss his
feet.”

“I guess he took his mask off and showed what is really underneath,” I said aloud, not
realizing the words had slipped from my mouth.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jackie asked. “What mask?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “Forget it. It’s just something a wise man explained to me recently. I
didn’t understand then, but I do now.” They looked at each other, and Roy just
shrugged his shoulders.

Chemistry was boring. I like it when we have labs. But to sit through an hour lecture on
how solutions are homogeneous mixtures of two or more substances, is not my idea of
interesting. As hard as I tried to stay awake, I found myself falling asleep. The student
behind me even kicked my desk and whispered that I was snoring. Not only did I have to
worry about Mrs. Horner’s class, now I’d have to put in extra effort in chemistry to make
up for insulting Mr. Silvers by snoring in class.

When the bell rang, I made my way lazily to the last period of the day. Suddenly,
someone pushed me from behind and slammed me into the lockers. I felt a stabbing pain
shoot up my back and into my shoulders. I spun around and Donovan had his hands
balled up, prepared to hit me again. Students came running from all directions to watch
what they thought was going to be a fight.

“I told you that no one talks to me the way you did.” His eyes were dark and menacing,
like they had been on Saturday night when he had me pinned in bed. I covered my face
when he raised his hand to strike me again.

“Mr. Michaels!” I heard a loud shout from outside the circle of spectators. I uncovered my
face and saw a very angry Mr. Marshall pushing his way through the crowd.

“Everyone get to class!” he yelled. When students hesitated to move, he shouted at the
top of his voice, “NOW!” Everyone began to scatter and head off to class.

Even though Donovan was about four inches taller than Mr. Marshall, he stood before
him and looked up, shouting, “Go to my office.”

“But, Mr. Marshall,” Donovan said innocently. “I didn’t do nothing.”

“If you are not in my office within the next 20 seconds, you’ll not be playing basketball
ever again at Anderson,” he screamed into his face. Donovan stepped aside and stormed
angrily down the hall.

He turned to me and asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, Sir,” I assured him. I moved my shoulders around to see if my back had been
injured. “I think I’ll be all right. Are you going to suspend him?”

“Yes,” he replied angrily.

“Please don’t suspend him,” I pleaded. “It will only make things worse for me if you do.
Everyone will hate me.”

“Are you sure about this?” I nodded again. “Fine. Then I’ll handle it my way.” He turned
and headed toward his office. I had no idea what he planned to do, but I was glad it was
not me sitting in his office.

I didn’t feel sorry for Donovan. Actually, he got whatever he deserved. However, I was
thinking about myself when I asked Mr. Marshall not to suspend him. We were
approaching the final games of our basketball season, and we were going to face two
very difficult opponents. Even though I didn’t care about sports, the school lived and
breathed football and basketball. If I was the reason for Donovan not being able to play,
thus ruining our hopes for a state title, then others would blame me. My life would be
hell for the remainder of my high school years.

I looked around for Jackie at the end of the school day. I wasn’t looking forward to a
replay of every word that she and Roy had said to each other all day, but I knew it was
something I was probably going to have to do; at least for a while.

When I didn’t see them, I figured he had given her a ride home in his car. I got upset
because they could have included me. I would have gone inside the house before he gave
her a goodbye kiss. It really wasn’t something I cared to see anyway.

Just as I was exiting the door, I saw Roy running my way. When he got to me, he bent
over to catch his breath before speaking.

“I’m glad I caught you,” he gasped. He grabbed my arm and pulled me down the hall.
“You have just got to see this.” He led me to a second floor boys’ restroom where a
large crowd had gathered and was looking inside.

“What’s going on?” I asked. Roy started laughing.

“Mr. Marshall ripped Donovan a new asshole for what he did to you in the hall this
afternoon.” He pushed students aside as he made his way to the entrance of the
restroom. I looked inside and my mouth fell open. “See, I told you.”

Donovan was on his knees, scrubbing a urinal with a blue toothbrush! I grabbed my
mouth and started laughing. Donovan looked at me and scowled, and then he continued
rubbing the piss-stained urinal. Mr. Marshall was standing off to the side with his arms
crossed. He looked over at me and winked.

As we turned to leave, a journalism student ran in with a camera and quickly took a
picture of the Donovan on his knees with toothbrush in hand. He had appeared in the
school paper numerous times making a spectacular basketball shot. This was certainly
going to be a different angle never seen before.

On the way to the exit, Roy explained what had happened after Donovan went to
Marshall’s office. According to another student who was in a counselor’s office across the
hall, Donovan started getting cocky and threatened Marshall that there was nothing he
could do to him because the school depended on him for a state basketball title.

Marshall immediately suspended him for ten days, and then threatened him with an
expulsion for violating the school’s harassment policy for hitting me in the back.

Donovan then broke down and started crying. He pleaded with Marshall to let him
continue to play, and that he would do anything so that he would not get expelled.
Marshall pulled out a piece of paper and made him write out a statement that he would
leave me alone for the remainder of our high school years. He was warned that if he
violated the agreement, then he would be immediately expelled. Marshall had the
principal witness Donovan’s signing the agreement.

After that was completed, he handed Donovan the toothbrush and led him to the
second floor restroom where he was told to scour the urinals for the next three days
after school.

Roy threw his arm over my shoulder. “I guess you don’t have to worry about him
anymore. He got what he deserved. This will bring him down a notch or two.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “Maybe he’ll think twice before he tries to take advantage of someone
else.” I felt satisfied knowing that I may have just helped another boy from being
another victim.

“You need a ride home?” Roy asked as we walked out of the school.

“Won’t Jackie get mad?” I assumed they wouldn’t want me hanging with them all the
time.

“No,” he said. “She told me to ask you if you wanted a ride. She’s outside waiting in the
car.”

“You don’t mind, then?”

“Why should I?” He turned and stopped. “Look, James.” He threw his arm around my
shoulder. “You’re Jackie’s best friend, which makes you my best friend. Jackie and I have
just met, and I really like her; but I’m not going to come between the two of you. You
were here long before I came into the picture.”

I looked up and smiled. I was beginning to really like Roy. He was one of the nicest guys
I had ever met. He befriended me at Sylvia’s party, and then saved me from being hurt
by his best friend. He knew I was gay, and he  didn’t judge me. It’s too bad he was
straight, because I could certainly fall for him. Jackie was a lucky girl. I was determined
to kill her if she messed this up.

“Thanks, Roy.” I put my arm around his waist and gave it a tight squeeze. “I’m glad
you’re my friend.”

“Me, too,” he responded as he gently squeezed my shoulder. Jackie was sitting on the
hood of the car, watching us approaching arm in arm.

“Hey, Mister.” she pretended to give me an angry look, but she couldn‘t suppress a grin.
“Get your hands off him.”

“Sorry, Jackie.” I faced Roy. He turned his cheek and we pretended to kiss. Afterwards, I
looked over and grinned. “We’ve got something important to tell you.”

“Oh, James!” she shrieked, “You’ve finally found a boyfriend. I’m so happy for you.” She
walked over, gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “You’d better be playing or I’ll cut
your balls off with a dull kitchen knife.”

“Ouch.” I pushed Jackie over to Roy. “Take this crazy lady. She just threatened to
castrate me.”  

“Who me?” she replied innocently. “I’d never say anything like that.” We all started
laughing as we got into Roy’s car.

“Shotgun!” I yelled. Jackie grabbed my collar and pulled me away. I lost my balance and
fell on the ground. When I looked up, Jackie was climbing into the front seat. She looked
out the window, grinned and then flipped me off.

On the way home, Roy suggested stopping at a Ben and Jerry’s and getting some ice
cream. I called my mother and told her that I would be late getting home. She seemed
happy that we were with Roy. I guess Jackie had told her all about him when they were
in the bedroom this morning.

When we were about two blocks away, Jackie looked out the window and pointed, “Isn’t
that Dion?”

I looked over and saw Dion walking with a heavy book bag slung over his back. He
seemed tired. I wondered if he walked this long distance home every day.

“Pull over,” Jackie told Roy.

“No, Roy!” I yelled. “Don’t stop.” It was too late, however, because Roy had already
pulled over to the curb just ahead of where Dion was walking. Jackie stuck her head out
the window.

“Hi, Dion.” He stopped and looked over. He was going to walk away, until he saw me
sitting in the back seat. I gave him a timid wave.

“We’re going to get some ice cream,” Jackie informed him. “Would you like to join us?”

“I can’t,” he replied. “I have to get home.”

Jackie opened the door and got out. “Nonsense,” I heard her say, as she took his hand
and led him over to the car. “No one can refuse Chunky Monkey.” She opened the back
door and pushed Dion in. He looked timidly at me.

He started to get out, but I grabbed his arm. “Please join us. My treat.” He stared into
my eyes, and then sat back in the seat. Jackie watched our exchange, and then gave me
a huge grin before closing the door.

We sat quietly on the way to the ice cream parlor. Fortunately, it was only a couple of
blocks away. When we entered, the waitress led us to a booth toward the back. Jackie
sat beside Roy, I and sat in the seat beside Dion. It was obvious he was uncomfortable.
He had a look on his face like he would rather be anywhere than where he presently was.

The waitress arrived and took our order. I told Dion to get anything he wanted, but he
only wanted one scoop of strawberry on a sugar cone. I ordered a waffle cone with a
scoop of Jerry Garcia and a scoop of vanilla. Roy and Jackie ordered chocolate shakes.

We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes. I felt extremely uncomfortable. I could tell
by the glances that Jackie was giving me that she wanted me to strike up a conversation
with Dion.

“James told me that he sees you on Saturdays?” Since I wouldn’t talk, then Jackie
decided to break the ice.

“Yes,” he replied. Jackie waited for him to say more, but he didn’t.

“He said your mother is the nurse there.”

“Yes.”

Jackie gave me a questioning look. I guess she was finally realizing what I had told her
about Dion. She had no one to blame but herself for inviting him to join us.

“Do you play sports?” It was Roy’s turn to try and get a conversation going.

“No.”

“What do you like to watch on television? Basketball or football?”

“I don’t watch sports.”

Just then the waitress brought our ice cream. Jackie and Roy talked quietly while they
drank their shakes, glancing occasionally at me and Dion.

Before he finished his cone, Dion looked at me and said, “Please let me up. I have to go
home. Thanks for the ice cream. I’ll pay you back tomorrow.” He started scooting over,
wanting me to get up.

I rose and let him out. He said goodbye to Jackie and Roy, and then he hurried away.  
I reached into my pocket, pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to Roy.

“Pay for mine and Dion’s ice cream. You can give me the change tomorrow.” I then
rushed out the door and looked for Dion. When I saw him walking slowly down the
street, I broke into a run to catch up to him.

He turned when he heard my footsteps. “Hey,” I said as I approached.

“What do you want, James?” he asked with a tone of sadness in his voice.

“What is it with me and you?” I asked. “Why can’t we be friends? There always seems to
be friction between us.”

“It’s not you,” he replied sadly. “There’s nothing wrong with you.” He picked up his pace
as he hurried away. I trotted up beside him, grabbed his arm and turned him towards
me.

“What is it then?” I pleaded. “I’d really like to get to know you.”

“Why?” Tears started to well up in his eyes. “And leave me like everyone else?” I stood
stunned as I watched tears begin to fall down his face.

“What are you talking about, Dion?” I had no idea why he was reacting so sadly. All I had
asked was to be his friend.

“Please leave me alone, James.” He turned and walked briskly down the street. I felt
tremendous sorrow sweep over me as I watched him walk away. All I could think of was
Mr. Wilbur telling me that Dion was so hidden behind a mask that he'd never let anyone
see behind it.


Chapter 11                                     Return to TMJ