Finding Good Trouble

Chapter 1

"Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America."    -The Honorable John Lewis speaking atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020


“Come on, Parker.” My friend, Pete Herschel, was pulling on my arm as he tried to drag me away.

“Wait, Pete,” I insisted. “I want to hear what he has to say.”

“Trouble,” replied Pete. “Nothing but bad trouble.” He again grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away.

We were standing on the sidewalk and looking across the street at a throng of students from another school. There must have been about a hundred people holding signs and yelling at us. Most students walked on by without paying them any attention. A few hollered something back, and then they would give them the one-finger salute as they walked away laughing.

The protest had been going on since Monday. It was now Wednesday. It started when we played their school in a basketball game in our gym. One of our players called their players ‘niggers’ during a heated argument on the court. One of their players smacked one of our players in the face as he fought for a ball. Our player retaliated by throwing a wild punch which missed. Within seconds, both benches had emptied. Coaches and referees were able to stop them from fighting, but a heated exchange of words could be heard.

Alan Matthews was grabbed and pulled from the court when he could be heard shouting ‘niggers’ at the players. There were audible gasps from parents in the stands, but the student section started cheering and taunting the opposing team. Administrators and teachers rushed toward us trying to silence us. I had remained quiet. I was repulsed by what I was witnessing. My classmates who I had known all my life seemed like strangers to me. I found the cheering and the taunting repulsive, and I moved away from them. I didn’t want to be involved in the racist spectacle. After several minutes, peace was finally restored, and the players returned to their benches.

What happened next was confusing. We watched as the officials, referees and coaches met on the sidelines in front of the opponent’s bench. From across the gym, it appeared to be a heated exchange. Four black coaches were surrounded by five white officials and white coaches from our school. Occasionally, one of our students would yell out something derogatory, but he was quickly removed by an administrator.

Ten minutes later, an official walked over to the announcer and told him something. The announcer then apologized and announced that the game was cancelled. Our student section started yelling and heckling the opposing team as they rushed from the court being protected by two cops who always attended the games. They usually directed traffic from the parking lot after the game. It was tragic to watch them running beside the black players as they held a hand on their guns.

I knew instantly that what had happened would become a big event. Racial trouble was breaking out all over the country. Blacks and whites were marching for Black Lives Matter in almost every major city in America. Within an hour, media outlets were showing videos of what had occurred in the gym. Shamefully, the next morning, Somerset High School was to become the next scene of racial injustice.

Pete pulled on my arm again. I couldn’t stop listening to the young man standing on a makeshift platform hollering into a bullhorn. “When will all this shit end?” he yelled. “Black students can’t even go into a white high school and play basketball anymore without being called niggers!” I watched as the black students standing in front of him yelled their support. They began chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”

“This is the America we live in,” continued the young speaker. He appeared to be my age. He was extremely handsome. I didn’t find him intimidating like some of the black guys I would see on street corners as I drove through some parts of their city.

Okay. I guess that sounded kind of racist. I didn’t mean it to be. But I’ve lived my life in an exclusive white neighborhood. I go to an all-white school. There is a black girl who attends our school, but she doesn’t talk to anyone. I think she’s scared of us. I don’t know why because no one has ever treated her mean that I have seen. Most students just ignore her. I should know her name, but I don’t.

I guess I’m like the rest of my classmates. We really don’t think about race since we aren’t confronted with it. A few years ago, someone would make a joke about Obama being from Kenya. We would laugh, but it really didn’t mean anything. I didn’t care where he came from. He seemed like a pretty nice guy to me.

Somerset is a suburb of the city. We are located about ten miles from the inner city of Rosemont. Somerset is an affluent area with large, expensive homes. The only time we see a black person is when they are doing work in the neighborhood. A few of my mom’s friends have black housekeepers. Occasionally, we’ll see blacks replacing a roof or doing landscaping. But other than that, there are no black homeowners in Somerset. I don’t know much, but I just assume they probably can’t afford the homes here.

Rosemont is just the opposite. It is largely a black community. I think all the whites moved out years ago and settled in the suburbs like Somerset. I don’t go into the city often, but when I do, I see rundown homes and empty buildings. Most people I see don’t appear to have much money, but again, that is something that I’m just assuming based on what I see. Many of my friends mock them because they don’t have the money our parents do. I’ve just always found it to be a sad situation. They couldn’t help living where they do no more than I can help living where I do.

“It is time to stop this injustice!” shouted the handsome young man. I looked over as Pete walked away. I guess he didn’t want to be late to first period. However, I wanted to stay and hear what he had to say. “We have got to break down these racial barriers around us!” Everyone started to applaud.

He pointed across the street at our school. “Somerset High School is an example of overt racism.” He looked down at me and pointed. “The students of Somerset are racists!” A hundred black students turned toward me and booed. My face reddened as I turned and hurried away. I could hear him shouting into the bullhorn, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying as I entered the school building.

During my morning classes, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen earlier. Our school was being targeted for racism. We’re not racists, at least I don’t think we are. In fact, it isn’t something that we even talk about. Until Saturday night, we didn’t even talk about race. Now, it was being pushed into our face, and we are being treated like we are evil.

I’m not even sure where this racial thing even began. I took Mrs. Lassiter last year for American history, and she spent several weeks teaching about slavery in the United States. She explained how slave ships had brought blacks from Africa to Virginia in 1619. After that, slaves became an important part of American labor.

She told us how slaves were used to pick cotton, as it became an important industry in the South. However, Somerset is in the North. Mrs. Lassiter even told us how a few places in Rosemont were stops on the Underground Railroad. There is a park on the east side of Rosemont with a plaque that describes how important the Underground Railroad was for slaves who were escaping from the South.

I had to do research on the Tolliver House. It was the site on the Underground Railroad where slaves could find safety. It is probably one of the most interesting reports I have ever written in high school. I learned a lot about how cruel slavery was. I had to look away from one book I was using for my report that showed the backs of slaves who had been beaten. The thing that stuck with me the most is how white slave owners were called crackers because of the noise the whip made when it hit their back. I went to bed that night and had nightmares about it.

Before turning in my report, I visited the former site of Tolliver House. I read the plaque, and I walked around and tried to imagine what it must have been like there prior to the Civil War. It said that over 400 slaves had made the journey through Rosemont on their way to freedom in Canada.

Since then, I really didn’t think about it anymore. It was just a report, and I was glad I got an ‘A’ on it. I still have it somewhere. I think I stuck it in the bottom drawer of my dresser. Maybe I’ll get it out and reread it. I think it may help me understand what is happening in our country today. Maybe it will help me understand some of the things the handsome guy was saying across the street.

I’m still confused why I’m so attracted to him. I’m gay, and I’ve had a few boyfriends. I came out when I was fourteen, so everyone in school knows. When I hit my teens, I began to have these feeling that I was different than other boys. They were always talking about girls and how they couldn’t wait to lose their virginity. I just enjoyed watching their pants tent in front when they talked about it.

It wasn’t until my friend, Ray, spent the night one summer. We had been in the backyard swimming in the pool. He looked cute with his blond hair dripping water down his face. We had known each other since the first grade, and we spent a lot of time together. I had never thought of him sexually until that night. For some reason, I wanted him. I wanted to see him naked, and I wanted to feel his hard cock in my hand.

I dared him to a race across the pool. When we got to the other side, I pretended that I had a cramp in my leg, and I sat on the side of the pool and began to rub it. Ray watched me with a worried look. When he asked if I needed anything, I lay back and asked him to rub my leg. When he did, my dick started to get hard, but I didn’t care. Usually, when I would get an erection in the pool when someone was around, I would get out of the water and cover myself with a towel until it became soft. But that day, I didn’t care. I wanted Ray to see it hard. I wanted to see what his reaction would be. It started to expand in my tight speedos, and within a few seconds I was bone hard. I thought Ray would stop, but he didn’t. He kept inching his hands upwards, away from the cramp. I could hear him breathing heavily, and I knew he was excited as I was.

I looked up at the kitchen window, but I knew we were alone. I’m an only child, and my mother and father were at work. Since our house is located on over two acres, the neighbor was far enough away that they couldn’t see past the privacy fence to see what we were doing.

Ray asked nervously, “Are you okay, Parker?” He continued to rub my thigh just below my crotch. My dick was straining to be released from the speedos.

I put my arm over my eyes to prevent me from seeing what he was doing. I was afraid that if I watched him, he might stop. “I’m good,” I replied as my voice trembled. I then took a chance and said, “You can do whatever you want.”

He stopped rubbing my leg, and I thought I had made a mistake. I listened for him to get up, but he didn’t. He cleared his throat and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I replied.

He began rubbing my thigh gently as he inched his hand closer to my erection. I gasped when he began rubbing it through my speedos. “Oh, God,” I moaned as I grabbed his hand.

He quickly removed his hand. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. Afraid he would stop, I grabbed his hand and placed it across my erection.

“Don’t stop,” I pleaded.

He began to rub me more vigorously. I was afraid I was going to cum inside my speedos. I moved my leg between his legs, and I discovered his erection poking into my knee. He gasped and began humping my leg. He reached for the top of my speedos and pulled them down as my cock jumped free. He then began to masturbate me.

I removed my arm from my face and leaned forward. I wanted to feel his hardness in my hands. He gasped when I put my hands inside the boarder shorts he was wearing and began to jerk him off.

“Damn, Parker,” he smiled at me. “I can’t believe we’re finally doing this. I’ve wanted to play around with you for years.”

I giggled and replied, “You should have said something.” I slid into the water, and we embraced. Soon, we were kissing passionately as we grinded our bodies together. We removed our clothing and kissed as we continued to masturbate each other.

It was Ray who suggested that we should lay towels down and lay upon them. I kept looking at the windows above. Mom and Dad never came home early, but I was afraid if they did, they would look out and see what we were doing.

That afternoon was the beginning of my awareness of my sexuality. Ray confessed later that it was his first time too with another boy. We ended in a sixty-nine position, and it didn’t take us long to both cum in each other’s mouth. Afterwards, we just lay beside each other and smiled. We talked about what we were feeling. He admitted that he knew he was gay since he was ten. When he asked me how long I had been gay, I jokingly replied, “About an hour.”

Ray and I became boyfriends. We didn’t tell anyone at school because we were afraid how they would react. I eventually told my parents one night at dinner. They were upset at first, but after we talked for a couple of hours, they began to accept it. Ray said he was too afraid to tell his parents. He came from a very religious family, and he was afraid they might not accept it like my parents did. For a year, he spent most weekends at my house. My parents never asked what went on in my bedroom, and I would probably have died if they asked. We did a lot of experimenting, and there was little we didn’t try.

A year later, Ray’s father had to transfer to another city because of his job. He was an executive in a chemical research company. The last night we spent together was heartbreaking. We swore that we would still be boyfriends, but we knew we couldn’t. Ray was moving to Miami, and we knew it would be the last time we would see each other.

For months after he left, I thought my world had ended. I became moody, and I didn’t talk to anyone. My parents suggested that perhaps I should see a counselor, but the only person I wanted to see was Ray. For five months, I went to school and came straight home. I stopped all contact with anyone. I closed my Facebook, twitter and Instagram accounts. Ray was in a lot of the pictures on them, and I couldn’t bear to look at them anymore. My friends at school kept asked me what was wrong, but I would tell them nothing and walk away. If they had stopped me, they would have seen the tears in my eyes.

I’m doing better now. It’s been over two years, and my life is starting to return to normal. I’ve started going out with my friends again. Dad bought me a car, so a lot of them depend on me to drive them somewhere. I came out last year at school. My friends accepted it better than I thought they would. The guys make jokes about it, but it is nothing cruel. A few guys have asked if I would like to play around, but I told them I’m not really into that sort of thing.

So, I’m not looking for a boyfriend. That is why I can’t understand why the guy speaking his morning interested me. For the first time since Ray left, I was thinking of a guy differently. I know it is weird because he was just a stranger, and I’ll probably never see him again.

And besides that, he’s black. I’ve never even considered having sex with a black guy. I’m not a racist, but it just isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. But watching him this morning yelling into the bullhorn fascinated me. He seemed so sure of himself. He had a raw courage that I’ve never seen in any of my friends. He was also extremely attractive. He wasn’t a dark color, but more…I don’t know…like mocha chocolate. I guess that is the best way I can explain it. He wasn’t exceptionally tall, maybe about 5’9. And his hair was short with a design in it. I had seen guys downtown with their heads looking like that, but he seemed different. He wasn’t like a street thug who hung around on the corners doing nothing. I had seen a lot of them when I drove my friends downtown to take them somewhere. In the summers, we would have our windows down. However, when we drove into some areas, we would lock the doors and roll up the car windows. We had heard stories about car jackings on the news.

However, the guy this morning didn’t look like that. If he wasn’t black, he would have fit right into our school. I guess that sounds racist, but I don’t mean it to sound that way. From what he was saying, he appeared to be extremely intelligent. But then again, that probably sounds racist too. It sounds like I’m assuming that students who go to a Rosemont school aren’t as smart as a Somerset student.

Now, it’s dawning on me. If I’m thinking that, and my friends are probably thinking that, then maybe that is what the Rosemont basketball team was thinking when we played them. They knew that we felt that way. They knew that we probably considered them inferior to us because we go to a better school. We’ve never played them at their school, but if we did, we would probably be scared to go to the game there. I would be afraid that my car would be damaged by someone.

This is crazy. I don’t like thinking this way, but I can’t help it. Now, I’m beginning to understand what happened on Saturday night. Maybe the handsome black guy was right. Maybe our school is racist. Maybe my friends are racists.

Maybe I’m a racist. But I don’t think so.

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