“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Linda asked. She was waiting by my locker when I arrived at school.
“What gay boy wouldn’t be interested in going out on a date with a lesbian?” I looked around to make sure no one had heard me. “At least I know you won’t be trying to molest me.” I whispered a little more softly.
“In your dreams,” she replied. “You wouldn’t believe the number of guys I’ve turned down over the years.”
“Give me their numbers,” I joked. “I won’t turn them down.”
“Turn who down?” I turned and Brent was standing behind me. Linda started laughing when she saw my reddened face.
“Um,” I stammered. “We were just kidding around.” He gave me a puzzled look, but Linda saved me.
“What do you want to go see tomorrow?” she asked Brent.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he responded. “How about you, Artie?”
“I have an idea,” I said. “Why don’t we meet at the mall around 4:00? We can mess around a while, and then get a bite in the food court before going to the theater. We can decide once we get there.”
“Sounds good to me,” replied Linda. She looked at Brent and he nodded.
“Good,” I said. “I’ll have my mother drop me off, and I’ll meet you guys there.”
“Rachel can pick you up,” volunteered Brent. After my mother’s reaction to Brent, I knew she’d be upset if she saw me getting in a car with him. As far as she knew, I was just meeting Linda at the mall.
“I’ve got to stop off somewhere before I meet you,” I lied. I couldn’t tell him that my mother thought he was ‘too pretty,’ and that she would be unhappy seeing me with him.
He gave me a disappointed look, but said he’d meet me there.
I walked him to his first period class. We kept looking at each other and smiling. All I could thing of was kissing him again. I was pretty sure he was thinking the same thing.
“I’m going to stop by the restroom before going to class.” I looked over at him and gave him a wicked grin. He smiled and followed me to the boy’s bathroom. Once inside, we looked around to make sure we were alone. I then pulled him into me and gave him a kiss. Again, he probed my mouth with his tongue, and I opened it to let him enter. I closed my eyes and savored his warm lips against mine.
Suddenly, the door opened, and Cal walked in. We jumped apart, but it was too late. He had seen us kissing.
“I knew it!” he shouted angrily. “I knew you were a fucking fag!”
“Cal,” I walked over to him to try and quiet him before someone else walked in. “Please let me explain.”
“What’s to explain, Cocksucker?” he shouted. “You and your damned boyfriend were making out in here.” Just then, the door opened and two more guys walked in.
“Better get out of here,” He turned and said loudly. “I caught these two faggots in here kissing each other.” The two boys stopped and stared at us. Both were in my third period class. I knew them, but I had never really socialized with them before.
“Fuck!” One of them said. “Damn fags.” They gave us an angry look, and then they quickly left.
“Cal, please,” I pleaded. “Don’t out me to the school. We’ve been friends since the fourth grade. Don’t do this to me.”
“Fuck you, Artie.” he shouted. “I ain’t no friend with a fag.” He gave me one last angry look before leaving. I turned to Brent and he had a sorrowful look on his face.
“Damn!” I screamed. I started pacing around the restroom. “Damn, damn, damn! I’m ruined. He’s going to out me to the whole school.”
Tears started falling down Brent’s face. I reached for him, but he broke away and fled through the door. I started after him, but he was already half way down the hall by the time I exited the door.
I went to my first period class, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too worried what Cal was going to tell everyone. Judging by the way he had reacted to seeing me and Brent together, everyone in the school would know by the end of the day.
When I walked into Mr. Hedges third period art class, I saw the two boys from the restroom gathered in the center of the room with a group of students circled around them. When they saw me, they pointed and everyone looked in my direction. My first instinct was to run from the room, but I tightly clutched my book bag and walked over and took my seat.
When the bell rang, I looked to see where Dan, my table partner was. He was sitting at another table, scowling at me. All through class, I watched as students would look over at me and whisper to each other. Since art class is a little more informal than a regular class, there was a lot more conversation. Several times I heard the words, kissing and fags. It was one of the longest classes I think I had ever sat through.
When the bell rang, I grabbed my bag and rushed from the room ahead of the others. I didn’t want to stand around and listen to their rude comments as they left the room.
I was going to skip lunch, but I had to see if Brent was all right. He had left so suddenly that we didn’t get a chance to talk about what had happened. I walked over to the table without stopping to get anything to eat. Food was the last thing on my mind.
Linda was already there when I walked over. After noticing my worried face, she told me to sit down.
“What’s happened?” she asked worriedly.
“I fucked up,” I responded, pounding my head on the table. Several students sitting nearby looked over and snickered.
“What did you do?” she asked. “What do you mean you fucked up?”
“Someone saw me and Brent kissing in the boys’ bathroom.” I kept my head buried in my arms on the table.
“Shit!” Linda hissed. “Where’s Brent now?”
I lifted my tearful face and looked at her. “I don’t know,” I said sadly. She grabbed my hand and pulled me from the table. “Fag,” said someone at a nearby table.
“Fuck you!” shouted Linda. She continued to pull me through the cafeteria. It seemed like everyone around had stopped to watch us. Just as we entered the hallway, we saw Amber walking our way. Linda grabbed her hand and led us down the hall.
“What’s wrong?” Amber asked.
“Trouble. Capital T,” responded Linda. “Come on.”
We walked outside and sat on a wall in the commons area. “Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” Amber pleaded.
“Brent and Artie were kissing in the restroom and someone walked in on them.”
“Damn.” Amber looked at me and gave me an angry look.
“What the hell were you thinking?” she asked. “You don’t do that shit in school. It’s too risky.”
“Tell me about it.” Tears started to once again appear in my eyes. “Have you seen Brent?”
“No, not since this morning.” She replied. “Hold on.” She pulled out her cell phone and walked away. She dialed several numbers before finally talking to someone. She was too far away for me to hear her conversation.
“It’s going to be all right, Artie.” Linda grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly.
“No, it’s not,” I cried. “The whole school knows I’m gay now.”
“Knows you are gay?” I looked at Linda and she was giving me an angry look. “What about Brent? Don’t they now know he’s gay too?” For the first time, I realized I’d never considered that he too had been outed.
Amber walked back over and sat down. I waited anxiously for her to tell us if Brent was all right.
“Brent is home,” she informed Linda. It was obviously she was trying to avoid making eye contact with me. “He went to Rachel’s class after first period and begged her to take him home.” She looked over and me and frowned. “He’s locked himself in his room and won’t come out.”
“We’d better get over there.” Linda grabbed Amber’s hand and started leading her away. I stood up, and started following them. Amber stopped and faced me. “He doesn’t want to see you.”
I suddenly stopped. It felt like she had just ripped my heart out. I wanted desperately to see Brent, be with him, comfort him; but he didn’t want to see me. “Why?” I asked sadly.
“He wouldn’t say,” she said. “He just told Rachel for me not to let you come with us.” With that, she grabbed Linda’s hand and walked away. I sat down, not knowing what to do. I had been abandoned by everyone. When two guys walked by and muttered, “fag,” I got up and rushed away from the school.
I took the bus downtown, but walked around aimlessly for about an hour. Several times I took out my phone to call Linda, but I knew she didn’t want to talk to me. In anger, I decided to turn off my phone so that no one could call me.
I don’t know how, but I ended up standing outside the building with glass walls. Reluctantly, I entered and walked to the elevator and pressed the button to the fourth floor.
“Hello, Artie,” said the receptionist with a warm smile. “I didn’t know you had an appointment this afternoon.” She looked down at the appointment book and looked for my name.
“I don’t have an appointment.” I stood in the middle of the room with tears falling down my cheeks. She looked worriedly at me, and then told me she’d be right back. Minutes later she appeared with Dr. Ashe. They grabbed my arms and led me to her office. Once inside, I sat on the sofa and started sobbing. Dr. Ashe sat beside me and patted me on the back, waiting for me to stop crying.
“You want to tell me what’s wrong?” I was able to tell her what had happened at school without becoming hysterical.
“I need to see Brent, but he doesn’t want to talk to me.” I told her about the phone call with Amber. Dr. Ashe again asked me to repeat what had happened in the bathroom.
“Don’t you see what you did wrong?” I looked questioningly at her and shook my head.
“You said that you were worried that your life was ruined and that everyone would know you were gay; but did you stop and think that Brent was going through the same thing?” She was asking the same thing that Linda had asked earlier.
I buried my head in my hands. “Oh, man. I fucked up again.” I stood up and started pacing around the room. I threw my hands into the air and shouted, “Why? Why is all this shit happening to me?” Dr. Ashe grabbed my arm and pulled me back to the sofa. She took wrapped her arms around me, and began rocking me like I rocked Randy when he was upset. I’m not sure how long I cried, but I know it must have been for some time.
“What do I do now?” I pulled back and gave her a pleading look.
“We’ll get you through this, but you’ve got to be strong,” she answered. “It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to face the fact that people now know that you are gay.”
“What about Brent?” I asked. “I’ve hurt him.”
“Then you need to talk to him,” she said.
“But he doesn’t want to see me,” I cried once again. She lifted my head and smiled gently at me.
“If he cares as much for you, as you do him, then he’ll talk to you. Just give him time.” I nodded. “He has to deal with this too, and I believe you can give each other strength.”
“I hope so,” I replied worriedly. “I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
“Of course not,” she remarked. “He’ll understand.”
“What about my mother?” I asked. “She’s bound to find out now.”
“Just a minute.” She walked over to her desk and typed something into the computer. “She has an appointment with me tomorrow. I’ll try and talk to her, make her understand.”
I tried to smile, but I knew my mother would never accept me being gay. She was already torn apart by my father’s actions, now she had to find out that I was gay. One thing was for sure, she wouldn’t be happy with this revelation.
Dr. Ashe asked me to return on Monday after school. She told me to call her over the weekend if I need to talk to her. She reached out her arms and hugged me before I left. I headed home, unsure what was going to happen. Once outside, I turned my cell phone back on. There were numerous calls, but no one had left a message.
I was about four blocks away when my cell phone rang. It was my grandmother.
“Where the hell are you?” she shouted hysterically into the phone.
“I just left the doctor’s office,” I told her. “I’m on my way home.”
“Tell me where you are and I’ll pick you up.” I could tell by her voice that she was extremely upset.
I looked around for a street sign. “I’m at the corner of Wabash and Lexington.”
“There’s a convenience store on the corner.” I looked over and saw a mini-mart. “Go there and wait. I’ll be there in less than ten minutes.”
Minutes later her car came careening into the parking lot. My grandmother jumped out of the car and ran over to me and clutched me tightly. It was obvious she had been crying.
“We thought you...” She stopped and hugged me tighter.
“Thought I what?” I asked.
“Never mind,” she let out a sigh of relief. “You’re all right. Come get in the car.”
We drove back to her apartment. She kept looking over at me with a worried look. When we entered her place, Randy jumped up and came running over to me and jumped into my arms.
“Artie!” He started crying into my shoulder.
“Would someone tell me what is going on?” First, my grandmother had acted strangely when she saw me; and now Randy.
“Randy.” My grandmother pulled him off me. “Go into the kitchen and make us a glass of lemonade. Be sure and make mine with a lot of ice.” He hugged me one more time before disappearing into the kitchen.
“What is going on?” I asked again.
“We thought you were dead.” Tears formed in my grandmother’s eyes.
“What would make you think that?”
“Someone from your school saw you standing on the old Red River Bridge. When they looked a few minutes later, you were gone. They thought you had jumped. They’re dragging the river now for your body. Oh, my God! I’ve got to call your mother.” She pulled out her phone and headed into her bedroom.
I tried to recall how someone could have mistook me jumping into the river. Then I remembered that I had walking aimlessly around before standing for about ten minutes on the bridge just watching the water run by. I was listening to the rushing sound it was making as it hit on the pillars below.
Mother Nature then called, and I walked down the embankment to relieve myself. Noticing a path leading into a wooded area, I followed it for about a mile. When I exited, I was about two blocks from Dr. Ashe’s office. That was the reason I decided to visit her.
My grandmother returned. She still seemed very upset. “I called your mother, and then notified the police that I’d found you.”
“I still don’t understand. Why didn’t you just call me?”
“I tried,” she frowned. “Your phone was turned off.”
My face turned red when I recalled that I had shut my phone off for most of the afternoon because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. She reached out and grabbed me again.
“We thought you had killed yourself because of what happened at school,” she cried.
I pulled her away and looked into her tear-stained face. “You know what happened? How?”
“When the police contacted your mother, we tried in vain to get a hold of you,” she explained. “Your mother then called Linda. Needless to say, Linda became hysterical. She told your mother what happened.”
“Oh, God.” I sat on the sofa and buried my head in my hands. “Now Mom knows I’m gay.”
“I’m afraid so, Dear.” She sat down beside me and wrapped her arm around me. Just then, Randy emerged from the kitchen carrying three large glasses of lemonade. He handed them to us and then sat closely on my other side. I could tell he was trying hard not to cry.
“I’m all right, Big Guy.” I wrapped my arm around him as the tears burst from his eyes. He had been through so much the past few days, and now I had added more to the situation.
I held him tightly while my grandmother and I continued to talk. “How did Mom take it?” I whispered softly.
“I don’t know,” she said. “She rushed down to the bridge after talking to Linda. I stayed at the house with Randy.” Her voice began to quiver. I patted her hand gently, to let her know I was all right.
Just then there was a violent pounding on the door. My grandmother looked at me, and then she went to the peek hole and looked out. She opened it and my mother rushed in and ran across the room and threw her arms around me. She was weeping uncontrollably. Randy started screaming and wrapped his arms around me. Overcome with emotion, I started to cry.
We must have held each other for five minutes. Occasionally, there was an, “I’m sorry,” and an “I love you.” I don’t know if I said it or my mother. It really didn’t matter- she was holding me again.
We finally wiped the tears away and sat down on the sofa. Randy jumped into my lap and I put my arms around him. My mother looked at us and smiled.
“I can’t begin to tell you what I’ve been through this afternoon.” She sounded exhausted. She reached out and squeezed my hand. Tears formed again in her eyes as she said, “I thought I’d lost you.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I said tearfully. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Grandmother walked over and took Randy from my lap. “Let’s go make some chocolate chip cookies.” She held his hand and they went into the kitchen. I guess she realized that my mother and I needed some time together.
We sat just holding hands for several minutes without saying anything. There was so much to say, and I guess neither of us knew how to start. Finally, I decided to begin.
“Grandmother said you know what happened at school.” I could feel her body become tense, and then she let go of my hand. I thought for sure she was going to get up and move away. Instead, she sat up and turned to face me. She placed her hands on my face and stared into my eyes.
“I was faced with a choice today.” Again, tears started to fall down her cheeks. “When given the choice of you being dead, or being gay...” She started sobbing again. After a minute she cleared her throat and continued. “Being gay didn’t seem all that important.”
She pulled me into her and again we cried for several more minutes.
“I’m sorry, Mother,” I cried. “I didn’t want to hurt you again.” She ran her hand through my hair and smiled.
“This has been hard on all of us,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes; but the worst one was not being there for you and Randy when you needed me the most. Today, I realized I couldn’t live if something happened to you or Randy.”
We sat and talked for over a half hour. We both talked about how we felt about Dad and what happened. I realized that she was really hurting. She had trusted Dad with her love- and her life. She felt betrayed by what he did. I told her that I felt the same way. I had always adored him, and now he wasn’t around anymore. Both of us agreed that we would have to try harder to get Randy through this. She was going to ask Dr. Ashe for a good child’s psychiatrist and get him some counseling.
The subject of me being gay finally came up. I told her that I’d never really thought about it until Dad got arrested. It was then that I started to face the fact that I was gay.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” She gave me an amused look as my face began to redden. “It couldn’t be the boy you were kissing at school?”
“I’m not sure,” I said sadly. “After what happened today, I’m not sure Brent will see me again.”
“Brent?” A surprised look came over her face. I immediately thought she was going to object to me being with him.
“The little boy who was over at the house with Linda yesterday?”
I nodded my head. I started to panic when I saw the worried look on her face. She put her hand over her mouth and said, “Oh, Dear.” My heart stopped.
“What’s wrong?” I shouted.
“He was at the bridge when they were looking for you.” She reached out and grabbed my hand. “He began screaming hysterically. Then he started having trouble breathing and collapsed. They had to rush him to the hospital.”
Tears appeared in my eyes. I got up from the sofa. “I have to be with him, Mother.” She looked sympathetically into my face and nodded.