I ran out to my car and sped away from school. I had just hit my best friend, or I should say my former best friend. A few days ago I would have kicked anyone’s ass if they had lifted a finger to him. Now I had hurt him.
When I got home, I went straight to my room and threw myself on the bed. I couldn’t get over the sinking feeling that our friendship was finally over. For the past couple of days I had hopes that maybe, just maybe, someday we’d be friends again. He had been trying to talk to me. All that did was make me angrier. He’d be with Cindy, but would be text messaging me. I felt like he was trying to rub her in my face- and it hurt.
I still couldn’t get over the fact that I’d hit Brett- my Brett. The same boy who’d I’d sworn my undying allegiance to years earlier.
* * * * * *
“Give me your finger,” Brett insisted.
“No.” I started to cry. “This is going to hurt.” We were only seven and Brett had watched a movie in which two boys had pricked their fingers and mingled the blood- thus becoming blood brothers. He thought it would be a great idea for us to do it.
However, looking at the small pen knife he had in his hand frightened me. All I could think of was that he was going to cut my finger off.
“Stop acting like a baby,” he said angrily, as he grabbed my hand and held it. I closed my eyes and cried when I felt him put the blade to my thumb and press it into my skin. After a brief stinging sensation, I opened my eyes to watch as he did the same to himself. I saw a small trickle of blood on my thumb. He had a small amount begin to appear from the cut on his thumb.
“Now, take hold of my hand and press your thumb to mine.” he said as he extended his hand. I held it and pressed our thumbs together, mingling our blood.
“Now repeat after me,” he said. “I, Corey Singer, am now the blood brother of Brett Weaver. We will be friends until we die.” I repeated his words.
He then said, “I, Brett Weaver, am the blood brother of Corey Singer. We will be friends until we die.” He looked over and smiled.
“There,” he said. “Nothing will ever come between us. We’re brothers for life.”
* * * * * *
I buried my head in my pillow and cried uncontrollably. I thought I was beginning to get over Brett; but how can you get over losing someone who had been your whole world for so long? How do you wake up every morning and face a day in which they would no longer be in your life?
I don’t know how, but I finally fell asleep. It was dark when I was awakened by a knocking on my door. My father opened it, walked over to the bed and sat down beside me.
“You alright, son?” he asked softly as he reached out and touched my tear-stained cheek.
“No, but I’ll live,” I told him. “Somehow.” He reached out and pulled me into his chest. I continued to cry while he held me tightly. When I stopped, he lay me back down on the bed and got up.
“Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go out to dinner,” he said. “I don’t feel like cooking.”
“I’m not hungry,” I insisted.
“Fine,” he smiled. “Then come along and keep me company. Be downstairs in ten minutes.” I got up and went to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and didn’t even notice the boy looking back. The once happy, twinkling eyes were replaced by dull ones sunk into dark shadowed sockets. The boy staring back looked so sad.
As I was getting dressed, I heard the doorbell ring. I began to panic because I was afraid it might be Brett coming back to repay me for hitting him earlier. I snuck quietly downstairs and looked into the kitchen. I was shocked to find Charlie and Adrian sitting at the table laughing with my father.
“And then he jumped off the roof and hit the net with his head.” They were all laughing as he told them about the time I’d made the bet with Brett. “They had to call an ambulance and take him to the hospital. It knocked him unconscious. He almost killed himself for twenty dollars.” They were howling with laughter when I walked red-faced into the kitchen.
“Dad!” I screamed. “Do you have to tell everyone that story?”
“You have to admit,” he continued laughing. “It is pretty good.” I tried not to laugh, but I let a small smile creep across my face.
“Here’s twenty dollars.” Adrian held up a $20 dollar bill. “Bet you can’t do it again.”
The entire room was filled with laughter as I turned and walked embarrassingly from the room. He got up, rushed into the hallway and grabbed my arm. I turned around and stared into his brown eyes. We just stood and looked at each other without saying a word. Finally, he looked down and walked back into the kitchen. He took a seat at the table and remained quiet. Charlie gave him a worried look, and then she looked at me. My father watched the exchange, but said nothing.
“Let’s go to dinner,” he said clapping his hands. “I invited your friends to join us.” He looked over at me.
“What will it be, kids?” he asked.
“Italian?” Charlie looked questioningly at my father.
“Italian it is,” he smiled. “I know the perfect place- Antonio’s.”
We headed out to the car.
“Shotgun!” Charlie yelled as she got in the front seat. She looked at me and winked. I don’t know why, but something told me she was trying to play matchmaker. There were only two things wrong.
One- I didn’t want anyone but Brett. I had never even thought of being with another boy. And two- I had no clue if Adrian was gay; and if he was, it didn’t mean he liked me.
My father and Charlie seemed to be hitting it off. They were talking incessantly. I could tell that she thought he was cool. It was probably because he had not once mentioned her blue hair, and he didn’t seem to mind going to a nice restaurant with her.
Adrian and I sat in the back and didn’t say a word. I could tell he was feeling somewhat uncomfortable with me. I was still bothered by the look we had exchange back at the house. All I could think of was how he had stared into my eyes.
My dad drives a medium sized car, so there isn’t a lot of leg room in the back. A couple of times our legs would touch. He’d let them rest together for a minute and then suddenly pull away. I would look over and could see him blushing as the setting sun shone on his face.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the waitress led us to a booth. When my father sat down, I started to sit beside him. However, Charlie pushed me out of the way and sat beside him. I took a seat opposite them while Adrian timidly climbed in beside me. I looked over at Charlie and she grinned. When I gritted my teeth, she started laughing and winked at me.
We ordered our meal and waited while my father told a few more childhood stories about me. Charlie and Adrian would look over and laugh at my blushing face. Surely, he had something better to talk about than me.
Adrian was sitting with his hands on the booth seat. Once, I accidentally placed my hand on top of his. I was going to take it away, but he didn’t make any move to remove his hand; so I let my hand rest on his for a minute. At one point, I even squeezed his hand to see how he’d react. He looked over at me and blushed. A few seconds later he pulled his hand away.
I hate to admit it, but I was having a good time. It had been days since I had last laughed. In fact, I thought I never would again. But sitting with my dad, Charlie and Adrian seemed to brighten up my spirit. I left the restaurant in a very good mood. It was just what I needed to forget about Brett.
On the way home Adrian and I sat in the back seat. And as on the way over, my father and Charlie did all the talking. We didn’t say anything. I noticed that Adrian kept his hand on the seat between us. I don’t know why, but I placed my hand on top of his. He didn’t pull away. I wrapped my hand around his, and he turned his hand over and held mine. I looked over at him and he smiled and squeezed my hand gently.
We dropped Charlie off first. When she turned to say goodbye, she looked down and saw us holding hands. Adrian pulled away, but it was too late. She looked at us and grinned. I was going to get out and get in the front seat, but she slammed and door and waved goodbye as my father pulled off. Before we got to his house, he reached over again and gave my hand a gentle squeeze.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” He asked as he got out of the car. I started walking him to his door.
“Yeah,” I smiled. “Of course.” We stood and looked again into one another’s eyes. I don’t know why, but I had a sudden urge to kiss him. Instead, I backed away and gave him a wave. He waved, turned and walked into the house.
“He seems like a nice young man.” My father looked over at me and grinned.
“Oh, no!” I screamed. “Not you too.” He started laughing.
The next morning, as I was backing my car out of the driveway to head for school, Brett’s bright red Cobra pulled up and blocked me. He got out, walked up to the side of the car and motioned for me to get out. I was shaking uncontrollably. I thought he was going to repay me for hitting him the day before. I could see a faint bruise on the side of his face.
“Get out, Corey,” he ordered. “I want to talk to you.” I exited the car cautiously with my fists clenched. Brett looked down and threw his hands up, indicating that he didn’t want to fight.
“I just want to talk to you,” he said calmly.
“Brett. There’s not much to talk about,” I said. “You made it plain that you didn’t want anything to do with me.”
“Look Corey.” He reached out to touch my arm. I pulled back and stepped away. “I never said we can’t be friends. I just didn’t want to do anything with you, that’s all.”
“It won’t work, Brett,” I replied. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
“Why? Why can’t we just be friends?”
“We just can’t.” I started to get back in my car before I burst into tears. I didn’t want him to see me cry.
“I don’t understand why we can’t be friends.” He gave me a questioning look. “Just like we’ve always been.” He reached out to grasp my arm again. I pulled away and started walking toward the house.
“Please, Corey.” He grabbed me again. “Don’t walk away.” I turned and faced him.
“It won’t work, Brett,” I insisted.
I took a deep breath. “Because I’m in love with you.” I could feel the tears beginning to pour down my face. “I can’t be around you and not want you.” I brushed the tears away with my sleeve and looked at him. He had a sad look on his face.
“I can’t, Corey,” he said.
“I know, Brett.” I turned and headed back into the house. Inside, I looked out the window and watched him drive away. I threw myself on my bed and let the tears flow. Now he knew the truth. I lay there for a while wiping away the tears. I knew our relationship was now over. Soon I fell asleep.
* * * * * *
“Brett!” I screamed. “Help me!”
I don’t know how I managed to do it, but I was clinging onto the side of an old well. I looked down and saw dark, smelly water about fifteen feet below me. I could feel my fingers begin to slip on the soft stone I was grasping onto.
Suddenly, Brett’s face appeared. He looked down and saw the predicament I was in. He extended his hand to me.
“Grab my hand, Corey, and I’ll pull you up.” He extended his hand and I frantically reached for it. He leaned over the side and tried to pull upward. I could feel the sweat from our hands and they began to separate.
“Help me, Brett!” I cried. “I’m going to fall.”
“I can’t hold on any longer!” Brett shouted. I felt our grasp begin to loosen. Suddenly, he let go and I began to fall into the well.
* * * * * * *
I sprang up in bed shouting. I was covered in sweat. I looked around me, expecting to see myself covered in dirty water. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had just had a nightmare. I heard a knocking on my door, and my father stuck his head in.
“You alright, Corey? I thought I heard you yelling.”
“I‘m okay, Dad,” I assured him. “I just had a bad dream.”
“Wanna talk about it.”
“No,” I replied as I climbed out of bed. “I’ll be all right.” He shut the door and I sat on the bed remembering my last conversation with Brett.
It was true. I couldn’t just be friends with a guy I loved. How could I see him everyday and act like everything was all right, when I knew that I’d be suffering inside? Brett hadn’t been just a friend. We had been lovers, or so I thought. I know now that it was probably a one-way affair. I was in love. He was just looking at it like a buddy helping a buddy out.
This was really a lose-lose situation. I had a choice. Be his friend and be miserable, or break our friendship and be miserable. When I weighed the options, it seemed sensible to let him go and suffer alone. At least I wouldn’t have to put on a daily act by just being his friend.
I looked at the clock and it was after 10:00 am. I was already two hours late for school. When I went downstairs, my father was in his office working at his drawing desk. He looked up when I entered.
“Can you write me an excuse for school?” I asked. “I’m two hours late.”
“You sure you’re alright, Corey.” He walked over, put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. “I have a good friend who is a psychologist. Would you like to talk to her?”
“No,” I started laughing. “I’m not going crazy.”
“I didn’t mean to imply that you were,” he said. “But sometimes life gets a little out of control and we need someone to help us put it back into focus.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I gave him a hug. “But I’ll be all right. If I feel I can’t deal with it, I’ll talk to your friend. I promise.” He looked at me and nodded.
“Oh, by the way.” I suddenly remembered. “Did you talk to Coach Davis yesterday?”
“Yeah,” His smile faded. “He wasn’t very happy with your decision. He asked me why you didn’t have the balls to tell him yourself. To be honest, I felt like knocking the shit out of him, but he’s a big sucker.” We both started laughing.
“He played for the Steelers back in the 70’s,” I told him. “He doesn’t let a day go by where he doesn’t remind us.”
Coach Davis was an enormous guy. He was gruff and crude. He stands 6’3” and must weigh over 300 pounds. He had been a defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers until he took a bad hit and blew out his knee. In the four years I’d played for him, I don’t think I hardly ever saw him smile.
I watched a poor little sophomore, who was trying out for an offensive position, pee in his uniform when Coach Davis started yelling at him for not being in the right position when the ball was thrown to him. The kid never came back after that.
“He wants you to stop by his office and see him today,” Dad informed me. “He wants you to tell him yourself to his face.”
My legs went weak thinking about facing the coach. I knew he was pissed with my decision to leave the team. Brett and I had been a winning combination on the field. We could read each other’s minds and hardly ever misread a play. There was no one else who could fill in for me and have the same connection with Brett that I had.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’ll try and stop by and talk to him.” I knew I wouldn’t, but at the moment I didn’t want to hear a lecture from my father about facing responsibility.
I left for school, but I almost turned back several times. It seemed like school had become a place where I no longer wanted to be. It’s really funny, because for the past couple of years, I had become one of the most popular guys on campus. Everyone looked to me for laughs and good times. Even teachers asked me to be in their classes because they thought other students seemed more motivated when I participated.
I had no sooner entered the building when I heard my name being called. My heart started pounding when I recognized the voice.
“Singer!” Coach Davis barked. “My office. Now!” He turned and headed back down the hall to the gym. I could barely walk because my legs were shaking so bad. All I could thing about was, ‘Please don’t make me pee my pants.’
I walked into the coach’s office and he slammed the door behind me. I jumped and felt I was going to pass out. He looked over at me angrily.
“What in the god-damned world do you thing you’re doing?” he asked angrily. “Sit down!” He began to pace around the room. Every once in a while he’d stop and look down at me, and then he’d continue his pacing. I felt weak, and I had to press my legs together tightly.
Finally, he stopped pacing and sat on the edge of his desk. I looked down at the floor, waiting for him to start shouting again.
“Your father tells me you don’t want to play for me anymore,” he said calmly. He sounded almost hurt. “Would you mind telling me why?”
I sat quietly still looking at the floor. I didn’t know what to say. How could I tell him that I was gay and in love with his quarterback.
“I’m waiting, Corey.” His voice softened even more. “I want to hear it from your own mouth why you don’t want to play for me.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with you, Coach.” I said looking up at him with tears in my eyes. It was the one thing I didn’t want to do- start crying in front of Coach Davis.
“Then what is it?”
“I really can’t explain it to you,” I said as I looked down at the ground. He sat quietly looking down at me. I could feel his eyes boring into me.
“Did you and Brett break up?” he asked. I looked up at him with a shocked look on my face.
“What?” I couldn’t believe what he’d just asked me. He didn’t ask if we’d had a fight or anything. He’d asked if we had broken up.
“Look, Corey.” He got up and started pacing again. “I’m not a stupid man. I’ve been around. I’ve watched the chemistry you and Brett have. It transcends friendship.”
I just looked at him in amazement as he spoke. I didn’t even know how to react to what he was saying.
“He’s been moping around at practice the past couple of days,” he continued. “Then your dad comes in yesterday and feeds me this bullshit about you helping him in his office. And this morning I see Brett walking in the hall with his arm around Cindy. Finally, it all came together.”
I put my head in my hands and started crying. Coach Davis walked over, put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed gently.
“I don’t want to lose you, Corey,” he said softly. “You’re a good player. There are several college scouts who have been looking at you. I’m not going to let you walk away from this. You have got to face this, just like you do opponents each week. I’ll talk to Brett also. I want you guys to work together again. Not for the team, but for you. I don’t give a damn about winning a game, but I do give a damn about my boys.”
“I really don’t think I can play with him as quarterback, Coach,” I cried. “It hurts too much.”
“Of course it does.” He continued to squeeze my shoulders. “It hurts to lose someone. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you have to move on.”
“I really don’t feel like playing, Coach.” I looked up at him with pleading eyes.
“You’ve got one week, Singer,” he said sternly. “You’re excused from Friday’s game since you’ve missed a couple of practices. But I expect to see you on the field Monday afternoon in uniform. Understand?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied meekly.
“Fine,” he smiled. “You’re dismissed.”
I got up and walked over to the door.
“One more thing,” he said as I was exiting. “If you ever need to talk, you know my door is always open.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said as I turned and headed to class.