Damn. Here we go again. Another step forward and three steps back. Things had been going pretty well since I’d left the hospital. I was back at Ticker’s house, so I had a safe place to stay. I hadn’t had a drink since my arrest, and I had only smoked a few times with Ticker.
I had gone back to school, and except for the incidences with Gene and Barry, most students had paid very little attention to me. I hadn’t missed too much work, and those assignments I had missed, the teachers had cut me a break. That is one of the advantages of being an honor student. Most teachers trusted you to do the work, and they were lenient with the assignments.
Then I had made two good friends, Star and Allen. Star was quickly becoming a big influence on me. I felt I could lean on her if I had to, and she didn’t expect anything in return. Even though we were the same age, she was like a mother figure to me. She knew I carried a lot of baggage, and she seemed willing to help me support it. I’d never had that with anyone before. Ticker and I had a certain bond, but it was more like a brotherly love. I knew he was there for me, but I just didn’t feel comfortable opening up to him.
Then there was Allen. I can’t even begin to describe what I felt for him. We shared something. Maybe it was because both our lives were like a soap opera tragedy that made us close. Like Star wanted to mother me, I wanted to do the same to him. When I held him when he cried, it was like I could feel his sorrow surging through me- and I wanted it. I wanted to feel his pain.
But tonight. Shit. When I pulled off Roger’s cock and looked out the window to see the surprised look on Allen’s face, it was like I lost a part of me. I think it was my self-respect. I cared about what Allen thought of me. Why? I can’t explain it. But I did. Now it seemed like I had revealed everything about myself to him, and I didn’t like it. By the look on his face, he didn’t either.
Surprise turned quickly to disgust. He shook his head and walked away with his head down and his shoulders drooping. And I felt like shit. Before, I had always hated my life. For the first time in my life I felt a new feeling, disappointment. I was disappointed with my life, and that was a new revelation.
I saw what I had become. I thought of all the cocks I had wrapped my mouth around, and I realized that I was what my father and the students at school had said I was. It took someone I really cared about to make me see what I had become- a worthless cocksucker.
I asked Roger to drop me off at the bridge. No, this time I wasn’t going to jump. I needed to get myself back to me, to the boy who was at one time happy and self-assured. I needed to find myself again.
It sounds stupid, but I wanted to relive the feelings I had when I had jumped last week. Most of it seemed like a dream, but I could remember that I had felt something. In not wanting to die, I had given myself a reason to live. For my rebirth, I needed to experience my near death again.
What was is it I felt?
I’m climbing down the bank. I’ve reached the bottom, and I’m removing my clothes. I stand naked on the shore. The moon is shining down on the river, and I watch it shimmer as the waves lap gently on the shore.
What was it I felt?
I jump into the frigid water. It’s so cold. My body is shivering violently as I dive deeply back into the water. What did I feel? I fold my arms, cross my legs and I let my body sink to the bottom. Three feet. Four feet. Five feet. Six. I’m getting weak, and I can’t hold my breath much longer.
I gasp and water fills my mouth. I straighten my body and shoot to the surface. I fight to swim back to shore. My body is numb from the cold. I pull my self to the shore and stand and look at the moon.
I scream at the top of my lungs. I howl at the moon like a wounded wolf in the forest. Then I fall to the ground, pull myself into a ball and weep.
My body was numb when I got up and dressed. I could hardly pull my shirt over my body because I was trembling so much. I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers as I tied my shoes.
But for some unexplainable reason, I felt refreshed. I had once again found me, and I felt whole once again. In the cold water, I had buried my past. Uncle Mike, my father and mother no longer mattered. I was determined to move forward- and not look back.
I made my way to Ticker’s house. When I arrived, my entire body was without feeling. Ticker’s mother shrieked when she saw me. Mr. Wendelmeier ran from the living room and grabbed me just before I fell to the ground. Ticker rushed downstairs and lifted me up as if I were a child. He and his father carried me to the bathroom, removed my clothing and then submerged me in warm water.
“I’ll call 911!” Ticker’s mother cried as she came into the bathroom and saw me still shivering violently.
“No!” I screamed.
“Please,” I begged. “I don’t want to go to the hospital.” His mother looked at me worriedly and then agreed not to call for an ambulance; at least not immediately.
Ticker sat on the side of the tub and wiped my exposed chest with a wash towel. After about a half hour, I could feel the warm water on my skin. He lifted me from the tub and handed me a large towel. He disappeared as I wiped the water from my body. A minute later, he returned and handed me a pair of flannel pajamas which I assumed were probably Arthur’s. He then led me to his bed and covered me with several blankets. When he turned out the light, I fell exhaustedly into a deep sleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night. Ticker’s mother was sitting on the side of the bed feeling my forehead. She smiled gently at me when I opened my eyes. “How are you feeling, Honey?”
“I’ll be all right,” I assured her. I closed my eyes and fell back to sleep.
I was disoriented when I woke up. The sun was shining brightly inside the room. I looked over at an alarm clock on a book shelf. It read 1:23. I sat up and looked around the room. I noticed a note on the bed stand. It was in Ticker’s handwriting. It read, “Don’t leave until we have a chance to talk.”
There were fresh clothes lying at the end of the bed. They were a little snug on me. I figured they probably again belonged to Arthur. If they had been Ticker’s, I would have had to wrap them around my body a couple of times.
I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. No one seemed to be home. I made a bowl of cereal and sat at the table eating. A small television on the counter was playing a soap opera. I idly watched it. It made me laugh several times. I thought I had problems. They were nothing compared to some of the ridiculous plots I was watching.
Just when some guy’s girlfriend was going to confront his wife that she was pregnant for the third time with her husband’s baby, I heard the front door open. Seconds later, Ticker walked into the kitchen with Star.
She ran over and threw her arms around me. Ticker looked surprised by her actions. I think he was confused about our relationship. He didn’t know that she knew I was gay.
“Are you all right?” She stood back and rubbed her hand gently across my cheek.
“Yeah,” I said. “Actually, I’ve never felt better.”
“Ticker told me what happened last night.” She looked over at him, and he nodded.
“I’m going to be all right.” I pulled her into a hug, squeezing her tightly. Then I astonished Ticker when I walked over and gave him a huge hug.
“Thanks, Guys,” I said appreciatively. “You have no idea how you’ve helped me.”
Star stepped back and looked at me questioningly. “There’s something different about you.”
I struck a comical pose. “Same old me,” I laughed. My silly action brought smiles to their faces.
Star then looked over at Ticker and asked, “Is there some place that Joey and I can go and talk privately?”
“You can use my bedroom,” he said. “I’ll watch television for a while.”
“Good,” I laughed. “Let me know if old dude’s wife finds out about his three kids with that girl named Holly.”
“Oh!” shrieked Star. “I love that show! If Larry’s wife finds out he’s been having an affair with...”
“Enough!” shouted Ticker. “I’m not going to watch a stupid soap opera. There’s a soccer game on right now.”
“Eww.” Star stuck up her nose. “Barry loves soccer. Must be a guy thing.”
“I don’t like soccer,” I announced proudly.
Ticker looked at Star and laughed. “Like you said, it’s a guy thing.” I walked over and hit Ticker on his arm. He laughed and retreated into the living room while I followed Star upstairs to his bedroom.
Once there, she sat on Ticker’s bed and patted it, indicating she wanted me to sit beside her. “What happened last night?”
“Nothing really,” I kidded. “I just went for a late night swim.”
“Not that,” she frowned. “What happened between you and Allen? I went by his place last night and he seemed really upset about something. When I asked if you’d been by, he got really angry.”
“Why did he say he was mad?” I was curious if he told her he saw me giving a guy a blow job in a car.
“He didn’t,” she said. “He told me he didn’t want to talk about you. It was strange because he’s talked about nothing but you for a week. I don’t think I’ve seen him happier than the other night.”
I hung my head. I had done it again. I touched someone’s life and left another shit pile. I had no idea how to get myself out of this mess. In the past, I would have walked away and not cared; but I didn’t want to leave Allen’s life, at least not without an explanation.
Star reached over and lifted my face. “He cares about you, Joey. For the past couple of days he has seemed alive again. Then last night I saw it in his eyes again.”
“Saw what?” Tears started appearing in her eyes.
“No will to live.”
I buried my hands in my head. Star put her hand on my back and rubbed it gently. For some reason, I didn’t feel like crying. I wanted to make things right, but I didn’t know how.
“Will he see me?”
“I don’t know,” she stated sadly. “He didn’t want me to mention your name last night. What happened between you? Did you have a fight?”
“It was nothing like that,” I replied. “I really can’t tell you what happened.” She studied my face, searching for an answer. I knew she was totally clueless as to what had happened, but even this was too much to tell someone. I needed to talk to Allen; but from what Star had said, I didn’t think he would speak to me.
She got up off the bed and looked down at me. “I’ll try and talk to him again tonight. It would sure help if I knew what was going on.”
I rose and took her hand. “Trust me, Star. This is something I really can’t tell you about.” My past was now something that I found extremely embarrassing. I realized that if it was something I couldn’t even confess to someone I trusted, then it was something that I shouldn’t have been doing.
“Okay.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. Before leaving the room, she turned and gave me one final look.
“I hope things turn out for you two.”
“Me too.” After she left, I sat on the edge of Ticker’s bed and tried to figure out a way to talk to Allen once again. From what Star had indicated, he must have felt something for me since she said he never stopped talking about me. I just hoped it wasn’t too late.
“Hey.” Ticker opened the door and peeked in. “Can I come in?”
“It’s your room, Asshole,” I laughed. “Sure. Come in.”
“What’s going on?” Ticker asked. “I was surprised when Star came up to me today at school and asked to see you.”
I looked blankly around the room. Then I turned to Ticker. “You ever been in love?”
“You’re in love with Star?” he asked excitedly. “I thought you were gay?”
“Shut up, Dumbass,” I laughed. “I’m not in love with Star. Well, I am, but not like you think.”
“I’m confused.” Ticker looked questioningly at me.
“Me too, Ticker,” I replied. “Me too.”
I had no idea what I was feeling. Ever since meeting Allen, I thought about him constantly. I relived that day we first met on the bridge over and over in my mind. For years it had always been about me. Now I found myself worrying over someone else.
I couldn’t understand why he was so upset with me. Okay. So he figured out I was a hustler. But he told me that he had led a wild past, so why should that bother him? To me, it was just something else we had in common. If anyone should understand, it would be him.
Then there was his health. That worried the hell out of me. I had just met him. I don’t think I could stand to lose him so quickly. Everything inside me told me that I should just walk away and not get involved, but I can’t. He needs me. And the funny thing is, I think I need him even more. It seems like since I met him I was undergoing a transformation of the spirit. He and Star were making me look at my life and reevaluate it. I now realize I can’t change my situation, but I can change me.
Star was waiting for me outside school when I arrived with Ticker. “Your girlfriend is waiting for you,” announced Ticker when he saw her standing patiently outside the large front doors of the school. I looked over, and for the first time since I’d known Ticker, he seemed jealous. I wasn’t sure if it was because he thought I had a new best friend, or if he thought I was romantically interested in Star.
I’ve mentioned before that Ticker is a large guy. I knew he was into girls because I had occasionally seen him looking at some porn sites on his computer. However, I never pictured him with a girl. It was something that never occurred to me. I guess I always saw him as asexual or something. It’s kind of like you never think about your parents having sex.
But sitting next to him, I realized that like me, he too had grown up. He probably was thinking about dating and having a girlfriend. However, how does someone as big as a guy like Ticker go about attracting a girl? Slim, tanned, athletic guys didn’t have any problems. But who would want a two hundred and seventy pound red head? Besides, Ticker’s idea of exercising is pushing himself away from the table after a large meal.
“I told you she’s not my girlfriend,” I assured him. I didn’t want to tease him any longer by thinking that I was romantically involved with her. “She’s just a good friend.”
“Yeah, sure,” he replied. Suddenly I saw a twinkle in his eye.
“Then it wouldn’t bother you if I asked her out?”
“What!” I shouted. Ticker’s already red face turned to scarlet. “You like Star?”
“Well,” he said embarrassedly. “She is really pretty.” I watched as his eyes wandered over to where she was standing.
“Does she already have a boyfriend?”
“I don’t think so,” I informed him. “I’ve never heard her talk about one.”
“Good,” he smiled. He got out of the car and I trailed behind him as he strode over to where Star was standing. He said hello to her and then entered the building. My first instinct was to make a joke about Ticker liking her, but then I decided to keep quiet and let things take a natural course. I liked the idea of Ticker and Star together, although I didn’t know if she was interested in dating someone.
“We’ve got a problem,” she said seriously as she grabbed my arm and began walking me into the building.
“What?” The first thing that jumped into my mind was that there was more gossip concerning me.
“When I read over the paper you wrote for English Lit,” she held the report in the air, “I realized I can’t turn this in. He’ll never believe I wrote something as good as this.”
“I tried to tell you,” I laughed. “Didn’t you work on it at all?”
“I tried,” she responded sadly, “but you know me and Wadsworth.”
“When is it due?”
“I’m going to ask Mr. Vicks for another day.”
Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea. “Why don’t you ask Ticker to help you?” Ticker wasn’t the brightest light when it came to math, but he was a really good writer. He had let me read a few of his short stories and poems in the past. Most of them dealt with fantasy and science fiction, but he showed tremendous talent. We had even talked about him attending college and majoring in literature.
Star asked hopefully, “You think he would?”
“We’ll ask him at lunch,” I said. I was delighted that getting Ticker and Star together had fallen unexpectedly into my lap.
Ticker became extremely nervous when I asked him if he’d help Star with her report after school. “Why can’t you do it?”
“He did last night,” chimed in Star. “But it sounds too good for me. He writes like a college professor.”
He gave me a defensive stare. “So you think I can’t write?”
“No,” I stammered. This was becoming a mess. I thought I was helping him by arranging a date with Star to work on her project, and he took it that I thought he was a bad writer.
“Let’s go outside a minute.” I nodded to the door and got up from my chair. “We’ll be right back,” I informed Star. Ticker hesitantly got up and followed me out the door.
“You dumbass.” He winced when I punched him lightly in his stomach. “I’m trying to set you and Star up.”
“Oh?” He gave me a questioning look which soon turned to a wide grin. “Oh,” he said loudly.
I gave him a shove toward the cafeteria door. “Now go in there and tell her you’ll help her after school.” I watched as he ambled back to the table and sat down. A minute later, she pulled the report out of her book bag. I smiled when he scooted his chair nearer to her and looked at the paper I had written.
Afraid to interrupt them, I decided to head outside. Billy Joe and Camille were sitting on a ledge talking quietly. When he looked up and saw me, he motioned for me to join them. As usual, Camille ran her eyes over my body as I approached.
“What’s up?” Billy Joe asked.
“Nothing new,” I replied. “How about you?”
“Same old, same old,” he replied. I became uncomfortable when Camille reached out and began rubbing her hand over my chest.
“When are me and you going to get together, Hon?” she cooed. I looked at Billy Joe, expecting some kind of reaction; but it didn’t seem to bother him.
“I don’t think so.” I pulled her hand away from my chest and took a step back.
“If it’s that gay thing,” she said, “then we can get Billy Joe to join us.” She turned to him. “You don’t mind, do you?” He looked undaunted by her question; it was as if she had just asked him what the temperature outside was.
“Sorry,” I said quickly before he had a chance to respond. “It’s not my thing.”
“Too bad,” he responded as he scanned my body. He reached into his pocket and produced a joint. “Let’s go kill this before the bell rings.”
Reluctantly, I followed them behind the building. Our conversation had gotten a little weird, and I wasn’t sure if they were going to try and seduce me into having a threesome with them. I liked Billy Joe, but I didn’t find him sexually attractive. And I found the prospect of having sex with Camille nauseating.
Nothing more was said as we smoked the joint. Both continued to stare at me, but they didn’t make any more sexual comments. My first impression of Billy Joe had been that he was gay. But then he seemed to be sexually attracted to Camille. I now realized that he was probably bisexual.
“We’re throwing a party Saturday night,” stated Billy Joe. “Why don’t you come?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “I don’t enjoy going to parties.” Actually, I didn’t know if I did or didn’t since I had never been invited to one before.
“Ticker will be there,” announced Camille. “And since you’re staying with him now, why don’t you come?”
“I’ll talk to Ticker about it,” I replied. He hadn’t said anything about a party, so I didn’t know if he wanted me to be there or not. I knew he was invited to a lot of parties because he usually supplied the host with weed for the evening.
Just then the bell rang. Camille reached out and once again rubbed my chest. “We’ll be looking for you, Hon.” She brought her hand up and patted my cheek before she and Billy Joe walked away.
I headed to the library after school to see if I could support Ticker. I knew he was very nervous helping Star. Even though they had known each other for a while, it would still be the first time he was actually alone with her.
When I entered, I stood off to the side and watched them. They were huddled together and working enthusiastically on the assignment. I couldn’t hear what Ticker was saying, but it was obvious Star found it amusing. Several times she put her hand to her mouth and giggled loudly. I smiled as the librarian looked over and told them to hush. It was apparent they were greatly enjoying each other’s company.
I left the library and headed downstairs. I planned to go home with Ticker, but I didn’t want to wait for him. Besides, he would probably take Star home, and I didn’t want to be in the way.
When I walked out of the school, I had intended to go to Ticker’s house. But halfway there, I turned around and headed toward the downtown district.
Allen had been on my mind all day. I needed to talk to him and try to clear things up between us. He needed a reason why he had seen me with Roger. I wasn’t sure what I’d say to him, but I hoped I’d at least make him understand that I needed to do it to survive. If he didn’t want to see my after that, then at least I can say I tried.
Nervously, I knocked on the door to his apartment, but he didn’t answer. I waited a few minutes and then knocked harder. If he was asleep, my pounding had to have awakened him. After several more minutes, I decided to leave.
I stopped by the coffee shop and peered in the window, but I didn’t see him inside. Deciding that it was useless to look for him any longer, I went back to Ticker’s house.
He was in his room when I arrived. He was lying on his bed, but he wasn’t asleep. When I walked in, he jumped up and sat on the side of the bed.
“Did you help Star with her assignment?”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “What happened to you?”
“I stopped by,” I kidded him, “but you looked like you were having too much fun.” I laughed when his face reddened.
“Yeah, well,” he stammered. “We did have fun.”
“And?” I raised my eyebrows.
“And, what?” His face reddened even deeper. It was fun watching my friend squirm.
“Are you going to see her again?”
“Um,” he muttered nervously. “Yeah. She’s going to a party with me Saturday night.”
“Really?” For a second I became jealous. Billy Joe said he had invited Ticker, but he hadn’t said anything to me.
“Yeah,” he said. “Didn’t Billy Joe ask you? He said he was going to invite you.”
“He did,” I informed him. “At lunch.”
“Good,” smiled Ticker. “We can all go together.”
“I don’t want to be in the way,” I replied. If Ticker was getting serious about Star, I didn’t want to interfere. I knew he’d feel uncomfortable with me around since Star and I were very close.
“You won’t be.” He stood up and pulled me into a hug. “Thanks, Man,” he whispered in my ear.
All through dinner, I teased Ticker about his date with Star. His mother and father were thrilled that he was finally dating. He kept insisting that it wasn’t a date, but I still continued to embarrass him. Even Arthur got into the act. He offered to supply him with condoms, which resulted in a stern look from his father.
As we were eating dessert, the phone rang. Mrs. Wendelmeirer got up and went into the living room. She returned a minute later and announced that Star was on the phone. Ticker started to get up, but she stopped him.
“She wants to talk to Joey,” she said worriedly. “She was crying and saying something about a boy named Allen.”