It’s Friday and I’m in 1st period. Mr. Byrd just checked our journals and then gave us a busy work assignment. We recognize those immediately. They’re usually a handout with a puzzle or some kind of brain teasers. They don’t really count for anything. Teachers use them when they don’t feel like teaching. He gave us a crossword puzzle on synonyms and antonyms. It was 3rd grade work, but no one complained. Most of us did it in about 10 minutes, so everyone is working on other class work. I decided I’d write a little bit in this thing.
I still think he’s reading mine even though he said he wouldn’t. He seems to spend longer at my desk than he does everyone else’s. I’ve even kind of slowed down turning the pages because I like hearing him make this silent little chuckle as he reads my larger comments. I think he looks forward to it each week. He’s back at his desk now and looks at me occasionally. I think he’s still trying to figure out that chicken and orange comment. Hehe. I hope he doesn’t ask me what it means. I saw it on a building that had a lot of graffiti on it a few months ago. I still don’t get it. Anyway, Mr. Byrd is a really cool teacher even though he makes us keep this weekly journal.
Yesterday, he toed off his shoes and walked around the room in his socks. I’ve never seen a teacher do that before. He said the shoes were new and they were hurting his feet. Naturally, James had to ask him if he could take his off and Mr. Byrd said it was a free world. When he did, everyone in the room held their nose and yelled at him to put his shoes back on. It was so funny. Hold on, I’m going to take mine off just to see if anyone says anything.
Cory’s looking at me and grinning. I’m wiggling my toes and making my big toe stand straight up. Cory is an idiot. He took his shoe off and we toe wrestled in the aisle until Mr. Byrd started laughing and told us that he’d seen enough. Yeah, I like Mr. Byrd. Okay, the bell is getting ready to ring, so I’m going to put things away. I still have to write about what happened at the meeting Wednesday, but I need more time.
IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
I’m back. I had a nice dinner with Mom and Dad. They finally brought up the subject of me being gay. Mom was kind of discreet about it and started asking me questions about school. I know she already knows how I’m doing because she’s constantly calling my teachers to check up on me. It’s not because I’m a bad student or anything. They just have set these really high goals for me and I guess they think if I make anything less than an ‘A’ in a class, then I’ll be doomed to live the life of someone who has to make a living by doing manual labor. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing manual labor for a living. Sometimes when I’m mowing the yard I wonder what it would be like to be a professional landscaper or something like that. It’s fun to be outside, but then again, it gets too hot sometimes. So maybe I’ll do a manual labor job that is indoors where there is air conditioning. Okay, I got way off the subject again.
Back to dinner. Mom was asking me about school and my classes, then it turned to other students in my class. I could tell she was going to ask me something personal because she started hesitating about asking me things. Then she asked who I ate with at school. I told her I usually eat with Abe, Cory and James. She knows Abe because she’s talked to him on the phone a few times when he’s called here. Then she started questioning me about Cory and James. She’s seen them many times when she used to visit my classes when I was in the earlier grades. Then she looked over at my father, cleared her throat and asked me if any of them were ‘special.’ So I made a snide comment about all the students in my classes were special. So her face reddened a little, and then she asked me if any of them were more special than the others. Okay, sometimes I’m slow, but by now I’m beginning to realize what she’s asking me. She wants to know if one of them is my boyfriend. So I told her again that they were all special. By now, my father is starting to chuckle because he is beginning to understand what is going on, which is rare for him because he usually doesn’t understand anything that is going on. So then she asks me if I like any of them. I replied that I liked them all. My father started to laugh harder. Finally, she threw her napkin down on the table and asked, “Come on, Reggie. Do you have a boyfriend?”
Okay, now this was really weird. I’m sitting with my parents at the dinner table and we’ve never discussed the ‘gay’ thing. They know I’m gay, but we haven’t even talked about it. So now my face is getting red because I’m not sure how much I really really want to talk to my parents about this. But then suddenly, I felt good about it, because she was asking me if I had a boyfriend like probably Elizabeth’s mother asks her if she has a boyfriend. It seemed so ‘normal,’ which my parents usually aren’t. So I got up and walked over and gave her a big hug. When I sat back down I told her I wasn’t interested in anyone and it might be a long time before I really was.
Let’s face it, my social calendar isn’t filled with dates and parties. The only guys I know are in my class and they are all straight. I’d be interested in Cory, but he’s got half the girls in the class liking him. So I figure I may have to wait until I go off to college because the probability of me finding a boyfriend in high school is astronomical. But I’m okay with that. After watching Abe the past week, I’ve decided I wanted to wait a while before doing anything with anyone. But it still felt good knowing that my parents were interested in me that involved something other than school work. Maybe now will be a good time to bring up getting my driving permit when I turn 16 in a few weeks. It doesn’t hurt to try. I just have to come up with some kind of plan. Okay, I’m going to finish a chemistry assignment and then maybe I’ll write more. I still haven’t written about what happened Wednesday night yet.
BIRTHDAYS ARE GOOD. STATISTICS SHOW THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE MOST LIVE LONGER
Sorry. I’m back. It’s Sunday afternoon and I didn’t feel like writing last night. Okay, I’m not going to like doing this teen crisis thing, but I may not hate it so much. The last two sessions have been better than the first two. I felt they were a big waste of my time, especially that incident with Gina. I’m starting to like Mrs. Armstrong a little bit better too. At first, I thought she was a space cadet like Caryn, but the more she talks, the more I realize she really knows how people’s minds work. So I guess hers works okay too. Hehe. I’ve come to realize that she is probably a lot like Dad. Her mind is probably about six miles ahead of what is actually going on in real life. You can almost hear her gears going when she’s just sitting quietly and not even talking.
Last night’s session was better than Wednesdays, but I’ll talk about it first since it happened first. Oh man, I hope no one ever reads this. They are going to think I’m some kind of an illiterate or something because of my grammar. But since no one will read this (fingers crossed) then I’m not really writing it like I would for something that was going to be read by someone.
YOU BETTER NOT BE READING THIS MR BYRD. IF YOU ARE, I’M NOT A DUMMY
Can I say dummy? Is that a bad word like retarded? If it is then I guess I shouldn’t use it. Maybe I’ll goggle it later and see if it’s bad. Anyway, where was I? Now I have to go back and reread what I wrote. Hang on.
Okay. Wednesday night. I guess since they figured out that Caryn, Tiffany and I are pretty smart, they have eliminated a lot of the learning sessions. I’m glad because I’m not sure how long I could have kept my mouth shut if Mrs. Armstrong handed out any more of those ancient handouts. So the past two sessions have been more interactive. Wednesday, she had several guest speakers come in and talk to us. I think she also used them to help her evaluate us to see if we could work with other teens. One of the guests was a DARE officer with the police department. Her name was Lieutenant Shavers. She was young and very attractive. Normally, I don’t find older women too pretty, but she was. She was really cool. She brought samples of drugs! I even asked her if it was illegal for her to have things like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, meth and crack in her possession. She laughed and assured me since she is a police officer, it was okay. Other than an aspirin, I’d never seen any other drugs. My dad takes blood pressure pills, but they are so tiny I can’t see what good they would do. Anyway, she showed us the drugs and explained how each was used. She said that some of the kids calling us might be high, so we should be able to recognize the effects it might have on their behavior. I was afraid the police would come in and arrest her when she took some of the marijuana and cocaine and rolled what she called a blunt. Then I remembered she was a police officer, so I quit watching the door for the SWAT team to come barging in. She showed us some pills like ecstasy. She also explained how bath salts were becoming a new way for kids to become high. One thing I learned, though, was that all these drugs can kill you. She warned us that if we even remotely suspected that the caller may be under the influence of a drug, then we should immediately report it to Mr. Armstrong or whoever else was supervising us that night. I learned a lot from Lieutenant Shavers. I also learned that drugs were something I never ever wanted to mess with in my life.
The next guest kind of scared me. He said his name was Carl, but for some reason I didn’t think that was his real name. He was 24 and looked really rough looking. He wasn’t particularly big, but he still seemed intimidating. He had shaggy brown hair and a little scruffy beard. Anyway, Carl said he tried to commit suicide when he was 19. He was wearing a long sleeved shirt, and when he said he tried to kill himself, he pulled up his sleeve and showed a really bad scar on his wrist. I looked over at Tiffany, and it looked like she wanted to cry. Anyway, he told us about how he tried to slit his wrist one night after drinking really heavily. He never said why he wanted to die, and I was too scared to ask him. But anyway, he told us the warning signs that people who do want to kill themselves sometimes exhibit. The whole time he talked, he kept his scar visible so we could see it. I kept staring at it. I almost peed my pants when he suddenly stopped talking and looked over at me and asked me if I’d ever thought about doing that to myself. Somehow, I managed to squeak out ‘no.’ I was kind of glad when he got up and left.
Next Mrs. Armstrong had a young girl talk to us. She had called the crisis center last year, and she told us how helpful the person on the phone had been. She had broken up with her boyfriend who had gotten her involved in smoking meth. She said she didn’t want to live anymore, but she kept calling the center and the girl on the phone finally convinced her to get help. She told us how she had turned her life around. She got into drug counseling and was now back in school and making good grades. I don’t know if she goes to our school, she never said. But I’ll be looking to see if I can spot her sometime walking down the hall.
We ended the night listening to a good friend of Mrs. Armstrong. He was a psychologist and his name was Dr. Gollings. I could understand why he was a good friend. He was almost as boring as Mrs. Armstrong. As he discussed different problems we might encounter, I had to keep my eyes wide open so I wouldn’t fall asleep. He probably thought I looked like some kind of moron or something. Again, most of what he told us was things we learned in psychology. He was able to relate it to specific people he had counseled over the years. It was still boring though. So that was Wednesday night. The DARE cop and the girl were pretty interesting. Not so much the suicide guy and the old doctor. Okay, I’m going to take a break. Maybe I’ll write about last night later tonight.
HEY MR BYRD- YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING OLD WHEN YOU CAN PINCH AN INCH ON YOUR FOREHEAD
I’m on the bus going to school. I had to write this down because it’s kind of important and I want to write it while it’s still fresh in my head. I was going to do it last night but I didn’t get off the phone until after midnight. Okay, let me explain.
Abe called me around 8:30 last night on my cell phone. He was really, really upset because he’d just had a big fight with his father. He asked to borrow the car to go to the mall to see a movie with Justin, one of our classmates. His Dad brought up the incident with Sarah, and asked him if he was going to meet a girl. Abe told him no and he even asked his father if he wanted to talk to Justin himself, but his father said that could just be a trick. Anyway, he hung the phone up and they really got into a big fight. I know it was big because Abe started crying. He said his father said he was untrustworthy and a liar, and I guess Abe kind of lost his temper and told his father to kiss his ‘Jewish a**. He said his father started to hit him, but didn’t. So Abe went to his room and locked the door and called me. I don’t know why he called me. He could have called Justin because they seem like better friends than us. Anyway, I’m getting some early practice for this crisis thing. Abe started crying and telling me he didn’t want to live anymore. He felt his parents would never ever trust him again, so he didn’t want to live. Now I’m trying to think of something to say- anything- that will make him stop thinking the thoughts he was having. So I started talking about school, particularly the early years. We talked about when we first met and the things we’d grown up doing in school since I don’t see him too much outside of school. Pretty soon I had him laughing about some of the pranks we’d pulled in 7th and 8th grade. I then got around to talking about how much everyone liked him, and I even used Cory’s analogy about our class being like one big happy family. I told him we loved him, I actually used that word which made both of us cry a little, and that we would really miss him if he did something to himself because he was so much a part of our family. So he started to cheer up a little and he didn’t talk anymore about wanting to kill himself. So now I can’t wait to see him in school to let him know I meant what I said. I’m going to tell Cory, James and Justin to kind of reinforce what I said about him being a part of our family. I hope it works because I don’t know what I’d do if someone called me and told me Abe had killed himself. I’d call his Dad, but it would probably only make matters worse.
IN THE BOOK OF LIFE, THE ANSWERS AREN’T IN THE BACK
It’s 2nd period and I want to write this down. I’ve snuck my journal out while Mrs. Reynolds explains a geometry problem that Caryn had trouble with last night. I understand it, so I’ll do this now. Abe is okay. We talked a little before Mr. Byrd’s class. He said he’s still mad at his dad, but he promised me he wouldn’t do anything to hurt himself. Besides, he says his religion absolutely forbids it. He’s going to talk to his rabbi after school and see if he’ll talk to his dad. I sure hope it works. Gotta go. Mrs. Reynolds asked me what I was doing and I told her nothing. Now everyone is staring at me.
It’s me. I’m back. It’s late Thursday night and I still have a lot of homework to finish. I thought I’d take a break by writing in this. Besides, It is due tomorrow and I still have 2000 words I need to write. So here goes.
I forgot I didn’t write about last Saturday’s session. I have to report this Saturday night at 5 for my first real active training session. Last Saturday we had to go in and listen to Mrs. Armstrong talk about the do’s and don’ts. She had 4 pages of things we shouldn’t say to someone who calls in. For one, we’re not allowed to ask them their name. If they give it to us, that’s okay. And she made a big issue about not taking sides when we talk to someone. We’re supposed to listen to the person, and give them constructive advice. I’m still not sure I can really do that since I don’t have a lot of experience in these things. I’m almost 16, I have to take a side. Mrs. Armstrong treats us like we’re some kind of an adult or something. If a girl tells me about an abusive boyfriend, shouldn’t I tell her to go into the kitchen, get a skillet and hit him over the head with it? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like there should be mediation, just action. Hit him once, you don’t want to kill him and go to jail. There. That is my advice. I bet I don’t last a week at this.
So after listening for an hour and a half about things we should and shouldn’t do, we next went into the room where they actually take the calls. There were three girls in there, Elizabeth was one. One girl was talking to someone, but the other was doing her nails. Elizabeth was reading a book for our literature class. She put it down quickly and shuffled around some papers on her cubicle to make me think she was busy working. Mrs. Armstrong had Elizabeth demonstrate how we are to answer the phone. I guess she thought we’ve never talked to anyone before. Mrs. Armstrong’s office was next door and there is a big picture window where she can monitor what is going on. She also told us that she can listen in at any time to the conversation going on to make sure we are handling the call properly. She thought I was being smart when I asked her if that is a violation of someone’s right to privacy. She then spent the next 15 minutes telling how important the work we are doing is. She said that research found that young people tended to talk more openly with someone their own age rather than an adult. She said she only intervenes only if she thinks it is necessary. Most callers just wanted to vent to a stranger and then hang up. Only in a few incidences does she really think that her intervention is necessary. Tiffany asked her if the center had really saved any lives. Mrs. Armstrong became really quiet for a minute before she talked. She told us that about 36 young people had seriously contemplated suicide. Her voice kind of quivered when she said that 2 had actually followed through with it. Now I’m really not sure I want to do this. I think I would freak if someone I tried to talk out of killing themselves did do it. And what if they did it while I was on the phone with them? It could leave me with nightmares for the rest of my life. I’d always feel guilty that I could have done more. Mrs. Armstrong tried to assure us that what we are doing is really a valuable service, and we are very heroic in volunteering our times, but I think Caryn and Tiffany were thinking the same things I was. I swear I’ll kill Elizabeth if she causes me to have nightmares the rest of my life. So next Saturday night I begin my actual community service. Mrs. Armstrong says she’ll monitor Caryn, Tiffany and me carefully for about 3 weeks before she lets us handle calls on our own. Right now I’m hoping that I can be like Elizabeth and just sit and read my literature assignment. I get really, really nervous when I think about answering the phone and actually having to talk to someone.
THINGS ARE GOING TO GET A LOT WORSE BEFORE THEY GET WORSE
Okay, deep doo doo. It’s late, I’m tired and I still have 1200 more words to write. So I guess I’ll write about this week’s prompt, although it might be a little difficult to do. I knew when Mr. Byrd wrote it on the board it might be difficult, and I decided I wouldn’t do it, but now I’m desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Okay, he wrote, Tell about the saddest moment in your life. Many things entered my mind as I tried to think of something else to write about, but they wouldn’t be the truth, and I guess that’s what this journal is all about, being honest with our feelings. Okay, my saddest moment was when my granddaddy died. There, I admitted it. I think I already mentioned that I love my grandmother very much. I still haven’t told her I’m gay yet, but I think Mom may have. I’m not sure. She may be waiting for me to do it. Anyway, Granddaddy died three years ago when I had just turned 13. He was really young acting like my grandmother. He jogged 3 miles every morning before going to work. He was an executive in an advertising agency, I think. I never really did understand what he did. I just remember him dressing up really nice every morning and going to work in a business suit. I used to spend some of my summer with him and grandmother. He’d always come back from jogging, shower, get dressed and then read the newspaper before going to work. I always tried to get out of bed early enough so I could talk to him before he left. When I was younger, he tried to get me interested in playing sports, but gave up when he realized I just wasn’t interested. I did enjoy going with him when he played golf. Sometimes he’d let me drive the golf cart around the course. I guess since my dad was so busy lecturing and writing books, he more or less took over for him.
Okay, now it’s getting hard to write because I’m starting to cry a little bit. I’ve kind of pushed this to the back of my mind for a while, but now it’s starting to hurt. I’m going to take a little break, okay?
I’m back. I went over to the window and sat and watched out back for a little while. It’s too dark to spot any deer, but the moon was almost full. It kind of made this really neat glare across the backyard. Okay, now where was I. Oh yeah, I was going to talk about my saddest moment. I’d just turned 13 and I came home from school. Mom was in the living room crying and Dad was holding her. He was kind of crying too. I knew something bad had happened, so I ran to my room and slammed the door shut. I was thinking that maybe if they didn’t tell me, then maybe whatever bad had happened would just go away. Then Mom came to my room and had me sit beside her on the bed. She held my hand as she told me that Granddaddy had died of a heart attack while he was at work. He died right away and there was nothing anyone could do for him. So that’s the saddest moment of my life. Things kind of changed after that. Grandmother didn’t laugh like she used to do. For almost a year I was afraid to be around her because I didn’t know how to act. If I acted sad, she’d be sad. If I acted happy, then I felt guilty because it didn’t seem right to be happy when Granddaddy was dead. So I kind of avoided her and then felt guilty for doing that. Mom was sad for a while, but I didn’t feel so uncomfortable around her. I don’t know if there is a certain way a person is supposed to act when someone they love has died. And what do you say to the people they left behind? I watched Grandmother all through the funeral service she had for Granddaddy. She held her head up and didn’t cry once. I thought his death didn’t bother her. Then I spent a few days with her and I’d see her sitting on her bed clutching his picture in her arms and crying. I’d watch for a minute and feel guilty because I felt I was observing something that was supposed to be a private moment. I wanted to go into her room and tell her everything would be all right, but that would sound stupid coming from a kid. For a year I watched her grow old, and she stopped laughing. Then last year she started to laugh once again. She comes by in the evening sometimes and we go to Dairy Queen for a banana split. She loves banana splits. So she laughs more now, and I can have fun with her again. One of these days I’m going to tell her I’m gay when we go get a banana split. I’m going to bed now. I have to count the words to see if I have enough. I should have because this took a lot of time to write. But I’m going to wait until morning because I’m kind of sad right now. I miss Granddaddy something awful.
IT IS SAD WHEN SOMEONE YOU KNOW BECOMES SOMEONE YOU KNEW
Oh man! I’m on the bus and I just counted the words in this week’s entry. I’m still 300 short. I think Elizabeth is short too because she’s writing something in her journal. It may be about me because she keeps looking back and smiling. Let me see, what can I write about that will be short but long enough to fill up my journal?
Okay, I’m going to tell you about Perry. He’s the boy who is sitting about three seats in front of me. If I could have the perfect boyfriend, it would have to be him. I’ve had a secret crush on him since he moved into our neighborhood two years ago. He’s in the same grade as me, but I never see him at school. But then again, I never see anyone in school except those in my class. Anyway, Perry has to be about the cutest boy in our school, but I honestly don’t think he knows it. He’s really really shy. He never speaks to anyone on the bus, and I think about every girl has at one time or another has tried to sit beside him. I’ve watched him when they do, and he gets all nervous acting. It’s really cute, but I already wrote that. He has long blond hair that falls down onto his eyes. He’s always pushing it back, but it just falls again onto his face. I’ve never figured out if his eyes are a light brown or gray. I’m afraid to make eye contact with him because, well, because he’s Perry. Last year after several weeks of trying to get up the courage to sit down beside him, I decided on a Monday I would just do it. When I got on the bus, he had his book bag next to him, so I decided to go to another empty seat. It would have looked obvious if I had asked him if I could sit beside him. Maybe I’ll try again soon. At least talking about him filled up the rest of the journal for this week.
I CAN’T DIAL 911, THERE’S NO 11 ON MY PHONE