When I met Seth, Sydney and Jade for breakfast, I informed them about my encounter with Joseph. Seth and Sydney had attended a movie the night before, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about it.
He warned, “I don’t think this is a good idea, Dorian. I think you’ve already pushed your father to the limit now. If he finds out you’re going to participate in a march that Avery has forbidden, you could be in a lot of shit.”
“I have to,” I insisted. I told him about Joseph’s concern for young gay and lesbians who were facing problems because they were gay. He shook his head worriedly when I told him I thought I could make a difference.
“You possibly could,” responded Sydney. She looked over at Seth. “But he’s right, you know. If this thing get out of hand, it could really backfire on you.”
I asked, “How can it get out of hand?”
Jade added, “It’s just a small protest march. Most students probably won’t even know what we’re doing.”
Seth sat back in his chair and looked at me. “Let’s put this in perspective. You’re Dorian Gale.” I nodded my head, wondering where he was going with his comments. “You’re gay. Your father is Senator Jonathan Gale, who just happens to be running for vice president of the United States.”
“So...” I started to object, but he quickly interrupted me.
“He’s a homophobic prick, who has advanced his career by bashing gay rights every chance he gets.”
“He’s not that bad,” I insisted. “He just opposes gay marriage, is all.”
Seth continued, “That may be true, but most people think he represents the party’s anti-gay agenda.” I nodded my head because Seth was right. Anti-gay and Senator Gale were synonymous. Seth leaned forward and stared into my face. “Do you really believe for one minute that you’re going to participate in a gay march here at school without the news media finding out? Look what you went through last week when they discovered you were working at Panera Bread.”
“But that’s why Joseph wants me to be involved,” I attempted to explain. “If I’m there, then maybe people will be more concerned with our cause.”
Jade grabbed my arm and squeezed it. “I’m with Dorian. Sometimes you just can’t sit back and let other people make a statement.” She looked at me and smiled, “Sometimes you have to take your own stand.” She kissed me on my cheek and said, “I’m proud of you, Dorian.”
Seth looked at her worriedly. “And will you be proud of him when his father pulls him out of school?”
“He won’t,” I replied angrily. “If he does, then he’s going to really have a fight on his hands. I’ll tell everyone how he’s treated me since I was a boy. With one phone call, I could schedule a press conference and tell them what a horrible father he’s been. I could ruin him, and he and Leo know that. Why do you think he hasn’t pulled me out already?”
Jade remarked, “He’s right. Dorian is holding a royal flush.” She took my hand and squeezed it. “And right now, I think he’s got the balls to up the bet.” I smiled and started laughing.
“I’m scared as hell right now,” I confessed, “but I know this is something I have to do. Joseph made me realize I can’t sit back and watch while others are getting hurt. If I can save just one life, then I’m willing to face my father’s wrath to do it.”
Seth shook his head and asked, “You really want to do this? You know what it means?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “I want to do this.”
He held out his hand, palm down. “Then I’m with you.”
“Me, too,” replied Sydney as she put her hand over Seth’s.
Jade looked at me and smiled. “Me, too.” She placed her hand over Sydney’s.
“Thanks, Guys,” I responded as I choked back tears. I then placed my hand over Jade’s. I looked at each of them and said a silent ‘thank you’ for having such devoted friends.
It was difficult to concentrate in my classes. If I wasn’t thinking about Wes, then I was worried about the upcoming march. For someone who had lacked any drama in his life for nineteen years, it seemed that I was now becoming overwhelmed by it.
However, in spite of everything that was happening to me, I felt alive for the first time in my life. I was now living my life on my own terms, and I realized that meant I would have to suffer the consequences of my actions. I also knew that I would have to suffer the consequences of my inaction. Therefore, I was resolved in finding a way to break through Wes’s insecurities and make him understand that I would never hurt him. I was also aware that by not participating in the march could mean that I would feel regret every time a gay student was harmed because I hadn’t taken a stand.
Even though my life appeared outwardly complicated, I was inwardly gaining a self-confidence I had never experienced before in my life. For the first time, I liked being me, and no one was going to take that from me- not even my father.
I could hardly wait for my math class to end. The professor droned on forever about solving quadratic equations by factoring or taking square roots. I might as well have been taking a Latin class. Sydney appeared to be falling asleep, so maybe she was bored because she already knew the material. I would have to ask her later if she would go over it before the next class. The professor enjoyed giving pop quizzes at the beginning of class to make sure that students paid attention during lectures. So far, I had only failed one. Jade and Sydney were batting 100%.
When class ended, the girls asked me if I wanted to go to the bookstore before meeting Seth and Amanda for dinner. I told them I wanted to visit Wes. Jade asked if I would like her to go with me, but I told her it was something I had to do alone. She understood, and she kissed me on my cheek before leaving. “Good luck,” she said as I turned to leave.
I wasn’t sure if Wes would talk to me. In fact, after the way he reacted the day before, I was sure he wouldn’t. I was hoping his mother had talked to him and made him realize that I had no intentions of hurting him. I wasn’t going to just walk away because he had some childish fear about being rejected.
When I entered his room, there was an elderly woman lying in bed. She appeared to be asleep. I turned and left before she noticed me. I went to the nurses’ station and asked where Wes was.
“He’s been released,” one of the nurses informed me. “His doctor released him to go home this morning.” Dejectedly, I made my way toward the elevator. Like before in the café, I had no way of contacting him since I had forgotten to ask for his phone number.
When I joined the others for dinner, Jade immediately sensed that something was wrong. She rose from the table, kissed Amanda on the cheek, grabbed my hand and led me from the restaurant.
“What happened?” She asked when we were safely away from the others.
“He’s been released from the hospital,” I informed her. “I don’t know how to contact him.”
I shook my head sorrowfully when she asked, “You didn’t get his number?” We went into a nearby McDonald’s and grabbed a sandwich and fries. I wanted to pay, but Jade handed the cashier money before I could pull out my wallet. “My treat,” she insisted.
“What am I going to do?” I asked sadly as I nibbled on my sandwich. I didn’t feel like eating, but I knew Jade would be mad if I didn’t eat the hamburger she had purchased for me.
Suddenly, Jade’s eyes lit up. “Do you remember when Cameron told us at the meeting about Wes getting hurt?” I nodded my head. “He said a guy from what dorm got hurt?”
“I don’t remember,” I answered. “I was too upset when he said it was Wes.”
“Maybe you can call Cameron and find out what dorm he’s in,” she suggested.
“Yeah,” I replied with a smile. I got up, kissed Jade on her cheek. “You’re a sweetheart,” I said before hurrying from the restaurant.
I immediately called Cameron, and he informed me that Wes was assigned to Newcombe Hall. I had to find the directions on my cell phone. It was only a couple of blocks from my dorm. Cameron didn’t know Wes’s room number, so I waited in the lobby and asked several students entering and leaving the building if they knew him. I had been in the lobby for about twenty minutes when I saw him emerge from the elevator.
He quickly stopped when he saw me. “What are you doing here?” he asked with a scowl.
“I wanted to talk to you,” I replied.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” he said as he brushed past me and headed for the exit. I ran to catch up with him.
I grabbed his arm, turned him towards me and shouted, “What is wrong with you? I thought you liked me?”
A sadness appeared on his face as he looked down into my eyes. “I do like you,” he said sorrowfully. “But you and me will never work?”
“Why?” I was trying hard to fight back tears.
“Because you’re who you are,” he said as tears appeared in his eyes. “There is no way I can live in your world.” A tear fell from his eye and rolled down his cheek. “I’m sorry, Dorian.” I stood silently and watched as he walked away.
I returned to my dorm and curled up on the sofa. I pulled a grey comforter over my head and tried to hide myself from the world. I had endured a lot of emotional pain over the years, but nothing hurt like the feeling I had inside my chest.
“There is no way I can live in your world,” he had said. My world? What world? My world of sorrow and rejection? My world void of love? For a brief moment, my world finally came to life. Now the person who had breathed life into my world said he couldn’t live in it.
Hours later, I was still curled up in bed when I heard someone unlock the door. I buried my head under the covers so Seth wouldn’t see that I had been crying. I jumped slightly when he sat down on the bed.
“Are you all right?” It was Sydney’s voice instead. She attempted to pull the cover from my head, but I held it tightly. “Dorian,” she said sternly. “Let me see your face.” I didn’t resist when she pulled the cover away. “Oh, Dear,” she cried out when she saw my tear-stained face. She reached out and pulled me into her bosom.
I cried out, “Why can’t I ever be happy?” She rocked me until my crying subsided to sniffles.
“Want to tell me what happened?” she asked as she continued to hold me. I emotionally mumbled what Wes had said to me. She lifted me from her body and stared into my face.
“I understand what he’s going through,” she said gently, “But I’m not sure you would understand.”
“Why?” I asked.
She laughed nervously. “I feel just like Wes,” she replied.
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course not,” she said. “Look at me.” She sat erect and placed her hand on her face. “I’m not the prettiest girl who ever lived.” I started to say she was, but she stopped me. “Every day I wonder what Seth sees in me.” Tears appeared in her eyes. “He could have any girl in this school, and he loves me.”
“He does,” I stated as I hugged her. “He’s told me how he feels about you.”
She asked, “But why?”
“What do you mean, why?”
She took my hands and held them. “That’s my point.” She laughed when I gave her a puzzled look.
“What point? I don’t get it.”
“I don’t either,” she said. “I stopped questioning why, and I began to accept that it happened. I thank God every day that Seth loves me.”
“What does this have to do with Wes?”
“He’s like me,” she replied. “He’s wondering why a guy like you would love a guy like him.”
“What do you mean, a guy like me?”
She smiled and put her hand to my cheek. “You’re so innocent. You really don’t understand, do you?”
I shook my head and muttered, “No.”
“When you first told me who you were,” she said, “I was afraid of being your friend.”
“What?” I said excitedly. “Why would you feel like that?”
“Because you’re who you are.”
“That’s exactly what Wes said,” I replied.
“You have to understand that people are going to initially react that way to you,” she continued.
“It’s not right,” I replied. “I’m no one special.”
She started laughing. “How many of us will ever meet a millionaire’s son whose father is also a famous politician running for vice president of the United States? Even my family can’t believe I personally know you.”
“Stupid, yes,” she laughed. “But we’re only human. It’s natural for us to feel somewhat intimidated.”
“Do the others feel like this?”
“They did,” she responded. “But we’ve gotten to know the real you. You’re just one of us now.”
“Thanks,” I replied as I gave her a hug. I looked at her sadly. “What about Wes? How do I make him understand?”
She took my hands and held them. “Give him some time. Let him get used to the idea that this really great guy is in love with him. Once he realizes that, he won’t care who you are.”
“I really do think I love him,” I confessed.
She squeezed my hands tightly. “I know you do. He’ll see it too someday.”
I reached out and hugged Sydney. “Thanks,” I whispered in her ear.
After a minute, she pulled away and stared at me. “Can I tell you something? You have to promise me you won’t tell a soul what I’m about to say?”
I crossed my heart and said, “I promise.”
Sydney started giggling. “I think Seth is going to ask me to marry him before we graduate.” I tried to act surprised so she wouldn’t know that Seth had already confided to me about marrying Sydney.
I laughed and said, “Maybe Seth will ask me to be his best man.”
I slapped her lightly on her arm when she giggled and said, “Maybe you can be my bridesmaid.” We hugged again before she rose from the sofa. “Don’t tell Seth I dropped by. This little conversation will just be between us.” I nodded, and she left the room.
* * * * * * * * * *
Sydney, Jade and I were sitting in our World Civilization class listening to the professor discuss medieval Europe and the Muslim world. Everyone was busily taking notes because we knew anything she said would be on our midterm exam in a few weeks. Suddenly, cell phones began beeping throughout the lecture hall.
Jade and Sydney glanced worriedly at me after reading the warning from the university:
The protest march tonight on campus has not been sanctioned by university officials. Anyone participating may be arrested for unlawful assembly.
“Shit!” hissed Jade. Dr. Beck continued lecturing as if nothing had happened. Jade, Sydney and I continued to look at one another as we took more notes.
Five minutes before class was to end, we received a text message from Seth:
Met me at Starbucks when class ends
“What is this all about?” Sydney asked worriedly when Dr. Beck dismissed us. We could hear other students talking about the alert. Most, it seemed, weren’t even aware of a march.
Jade responded, “Avery is just trying to scare us. There is no way he’s going to arrest students.”
“What if it’s not a threat?” I asked as we walked to meet Seth. He had probably received the same alert we did. “What if we do get arrested?”
Sydney suggested, “Let’s wait until we talk to Seth and see what he thinks.”
Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting at a table in Starbucks. Darlene and Amanda were waiting with him when we arrived. “Do you think he means it?” Amanda asked as we sat down.
“Yes,” replied Darlene. “I talked to my class advisor a few minutes ago. He assigned me to cover the march, but he told me not to get involved. He said one of our reporters was doing a story on a security officer, and she was suddenly called away to attend an emergency meeting. Jerry thinks that Avery is serious.”
We discussed if the march was still being planned. There had been little organization other than putting up a few signs around campus. Suddenly, I received a text message. It was from Joseph. It stated:
Fuck Avery! Meet at six outside the library. We’ll march to Founder’s Square.
I passed my phone around the table and let everyone read Joseph’s message. Seth grabbed Sydney’s hand and announced, “We’re not marching. I’m on a scholarship, and I can’t afford to lose it. Sorry, Guys.” Sydney nodded her head and muttered, “Sorry.”
Jade said, “Well, I’m in.” Amanda also agreed to march.
“Me, too,” responded Darlene proudly. Everyone turned to me.
I was faced with making the biggest decision of my life. I knew there would be serious consequences if I attended the march. However, if I didn’t stand up now for what I strongly believed in, then I could never look at myself in the mirror again. My life would once again have no meaning.
I glanced at Seth. He was my rock. He gave me direction. I looked at Sydney. She was the sister I never had. She was smart and grounded. Perhaps, they were right to refuse to attend the march. They realized what was at stake if they were arrested. It could be the end of their college careers.
Then I looked at the expectant faces of Jade and Darlene. We were united in a cause. We understood the meaning of the march. We weren’t just marching to protest the injustices on campus. We were marching to protest the injustices of every gay man and woman, boy and girl who had every experienced prejudice, discrimination, sexual harassment or hazing. The march was symbolic of everything that is wrong in our society.
Jade and Darlene smiled when I announced, “I’m in.”
Seth looked worriedly at me and asked, “Are you sure, Dorian?”
“Yes,” I replied adamantly. “I’ve never been more sure about anything.”
It was four-thirty when we left Starbucks. I was to meet Jade and Amanda in the lobby at five-thirty, and we would walk together to the library where Darlene would meet us. Seth and Sydney kept asking me if I knew what I was getting into. I respected them because they didn’t try to talk me out of going. Instead, they just wanted me to be aware of the consequences of participating in the march.
By the time I headed out the door to meet Jade and Amanda, my stomach was doing somersaults inside my body. I was extremely frightened. However, I felt a burst of adrenaline as we approached the library. Joseph had already arrived. About a dozen students surrounded him as he gave them instructions.
“Hi!” he said cheerfully when he saw me. “I wasn’t sure you would show.” He thanked Jade and Amanda for participating. We listened as he instructed us how to react if we encountered trouble. He said that not only did we have to worry about campus police preventing us from marching; we also had to be aware of students who might object to our march. I had never considered that we might encounter danger.
“Watch out for tomatoes and eggs,” he warned. “They may come out of nowhere.”
I was becoming increasingly worried as six o’clock approached. A large crowd was beginning to gather to observe us. The alert had made them aware of our march. Many, I’m sure, had come to observe us being arrested.
Darlene arrived and immediately started taking pictures. Besides myself, I counted twenty-one other students. There must have been over two hundred students milling about waiting for the action to start. Many were taking pictures of me, probably to put on their Facebook page or post on Youtube. I noticed that Darlene was taking numerous pictures of the crowd. I assumed she was doing it just in case something happened and she would have evidence of someone being in the crowd.
At six, Joseph called us together. “This is it,” he said. “If you have any doubts, back out now.” We looked at one another to see if anyone would leave. No one did.
“Remember,” he reminded us. “Keep it peaceful, but don’t take any shit off anyone.”
I looked over Joseph’s shoulder and noticed a figure step out from behind the large mob of students. It was Wes!
He stepped up to me and said meekly, “Hi.” He stared into my eyes and then looked down at the ground. I reached out and took his hand.
“I’m glad you came,” I said.
“Me, too,” he replied nervously as he firmly gripped my hand.
In the background, I heard Joseph holler out, “Let’s march!”