“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Mrs. Mason said anxiously. “Come in quickly and take a seat.”
When I walked into the room, she smiled warmly at me. I noticed a man sitting on her desk inspecting us carefully as we entered. He was dressed sharply in a gray business suit. His hair was jet black with graying temples. He appeared to be about forty years old. I was immediately struck by his distinguished features. It was apparent he was the defense attorney that Mrs. Mason had mentioned the previous day.
Jason was already seated in the front row. I walked to the opposite side of the room and sat in the middle. Jason turned and gave me a quizzical look. I knew he wondered why I hadn’t taken my usual seat beside him. Mrs. Mason also noticed his reaction, and she gave me a concerned look.
“This is Mr. Bernard Anderson,” she announced after the bell rang. She walked over and stood beside him as the class became quiet. “He is one of the country’s leading defense attorneys. We are very fortunate to have him help us with our mock trial.”
Mr. Anderson began to speak immediately. He spent the next thirty minutes talking about his law career. I was mesmerized. I had never heard anyone talk so eloquently. I could understand why he was successful. I’m sure he could charm any jury into believing anything he said.
He told us about attending Harvard Law School and the challenges facing students who wanted a law career. He informed us he had been practicing law for eighteen years, and he was one of the senior partners in a very prestigious law firm. I always imagined lawyers to be like the ones in movies, old and wearing wrinkled suits. Mr. Anderson was nothing like that.
He related some of his most challenging cases. I think everyone in the room was stunned when he talked about them. Most of us had heard about them in the news. One had involved a local congressman who had to resign because he was charged with money laundering. A jury later acquitted him. It had been in the paper for months.
“Any questions?” he asked when he had finished his presentation.
Jason threw up his hand. “Do you make a lot of money?” The class laughed because we had all been thinking the same thing.
“As if it’s any of your business, yes,” Mr. Anderson responded with a smile. “I make seven figures a year.”
Jason counted on his fingers before suddenly burst out, “You’re a millionaire!”
“Duh!” One of the students sitting beside Jason remarked loudly. Everyone laughed, including Mr. Anderson.
“And you’re going to help us?” Jason said in disbelief.
“Yes, young Man,” he responded. “I think I have a responsibility to help young people discover themselves.” He turned to Mrs. Mason. “Isn’t that right, Sis?” The class gasped at his remark. Mrs. Mason stood along side the wall blushing. Mr. Anderson was her brother!
They next had us break into groups and discuss the case. Jason looked over at me, but I pulled my chair up beside three other students near me. A few times I looked over at his group to see him watching me.
The bell was getting ready to ring when Mrs. Mason told us that anyone interested in working on the case should remain after school. She looked over at me and I nodded.
When the bell rang, Jason looked at me before leaving the room. Only a few students remained. Most were going to their locker and then return.
“Bernard.” Mrs. Mason approached with her brother. “I want you to meet Taylor White. He’s going to participate in the mock trial.” Mr. Anderson extended his hand to me.
“Hello, Taylor,” he said smilingly. “My sister has told me about you. She says you’re interested in law.”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied shyly. “I’ve considered it.”
“Excellent,” he said. “What area are you interested in?”
“I’d like to be a civil rights lawyer,” I responded. “I’d like to work for a group like the ACLU.”
“That is very admirable.” He seemed impressed. “Most young people want to go where the money is, like corporate law. Any reason why you’re interested in civil law?”
I was embarrassed to tell him that I had been doing some reading on gay rights. I thought that there were a lot of problems involving discrimination in the work place and the legal rights of partners in a gay relationship. I wanted to do something to help gays and lesbians achieve equal rights.
“It just sounds interesting,” I simply said.
“You need to talk to my partner, Thomas,” he responded. “He’s an attorney for a gay rights organization in Washington, D.C.”
My mouth must have dropped to the floor when he said his partner. I stood wide-eyed, staring at him. I looked over and Mrs. Mason was smiling at me.
She walked over and whispered in my ear, “I have a gay brother, too.”
They both started to laugh when I walked weakly over to a desk and sat down. Mr. Anderson sat in the desk beside me.
“I hope you don’t mind, but my sister told me a little about you before you came in.” I looked up and met his brown eyes. “I understand you’re going through a rough time. If there’s anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask.”
All I could do was nod as other students began to come back into the room. Jason entered with Stephanie and Cynthia in tow. When I looked at Jason take his seat, Mr. Anderson followed my eyes to see who I was watching.
“Is that him?” he asked. My face began to redden. I wasn’t aware that he had been watching me so intently.
“He’s cute,” he commented as he stood back up.
He and Mrs. Mason spent the next half hour going over the case we would be working on. The more they talked about the mock trial competition, the more excited I got. They said that we had to learn the case completely, because like in a real trial, we would not know what the other team would bring up. We had to be prepared.
“Who would like to audition first?” Mrs. Mason asked. Jason quickly held up his hand.
“I want to try out for defense attorney,” he stated. He looked over at me and grinned. “Tay wants to be attorney for the plaintiff.”
For our auditions, Mr. Anderson had arranged the room so that there would be a jury box. He sat at Mrs. Mason’s desk and pretended to be the judge. We started laughing when Mrs. Mason retrieved a worn out cloak she kept in her closet in case it rained. He smelled it and wrinkled up his nose before putting it on.
Jason was very impressive. He must have stayed up all night reading the case. I was worried because I had only read it briefly during my second period class.
I got confused with the names of a few of the witnesses, but other than that I did well. Cynthia and Stephanie’s performances were also very good. In a way, I was hoping that they would mess up so that they could not participate.
After all the students present had auditioned, Mr. Anderson stood before us and smiled. “I have to hand it to you,” he said. “You guys are good. You were well prepared and very enthusiastic. I think you will do well in this competition.” The class erupted in applause as Mrs. Mason stood behind her brother beaming with pride.
“Now as you know,” she stepped forward and began to speak. “There are limited roles. However, we will still need other students to prepare as understudies, just in case something comes up unexpectedly. My brother and I will discuss your performances tonight, and I will let you know tomorrow after school what roles you will be assigned.”
The class let out a moan. “I won’t get any sleep tonight,” Jason muttered as the class broke out in laughter.
“Then I suggest you rent several long movies for the evening,” Mr. Anderson told him.
“I’ll just rent the Titanic and watch it once,” Jason responded quickly.
“Very good, Mr. Morris,” Mr. Anderson laughed. “Witty too. I like that.” Jason looked over at me and grinned. He knew he had scored points with Mr. Anderson.
As we were walking out, Mr. Anderson stopped me. “I meant it, Taylor,” he whispered. “If you ever need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to come to me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Anderson,” I replied.
“Bernie,” he insisted. “Call me Bernie.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said as I walked out. Jason had been standing in the hallway watching our exchange.
“What are you trying to do?” he asked sarcastically. “Score brownie points with the judge?”
“You tried to,” I responded smugly before walking off.
Jason asked me to go home with him, but I wanted to go home instead. It was becoming increasing difficult to be around him. Besides, any time I went to his house, he would usually sit at the computer and message Stephanie.
I wasn’t in my room an hour when Jason came bounding in, jumping on the bed beside me. “Hey, Asswipe.” He pounced on me, pinning me to the bed.
“Get off me!” I shouted. He had his face inches from mine, smiling down at me. I had an impulse to kiss him. Instead, I kneed him in his nuts. He grabbed his crotch and started rolling around on the bed.
“Damn it, Tay,” he moaned. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Man?”
“I told you to get off me,” I said angrily. I walked over to the mirror and combed my hair back into place.
“I was just playing around. We used to do that all the time.”
“We’re not little boys anymore. Things have changed.”
“They sure have,” he remarked as he climbed off the bed and walked to the door. “You’re a bigger jackass now.” He walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Depression suddenly overwhelmed me. The one person I cared most about was becoming a stranger to me. I didn’t want him around, reminding me of what I could not have. Our friendship had taken a turn. I knew he was clueless as to what was going on. What was I going to do? Sit him down and say, “I’m in love with you. I hate the sight of you because I know you’ll never love me back.”
Ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door. My father opened the door and peeked in. “Hey, Champ,” he said. “May I come in?”
“Yeah, sure,” I responded. I could tell by the serious look on his face he had something he wanted to discuss.
“I just got through talking to Jason,” he said. “Why don’t you want to be his friend anymore?”
“Who said I didn’t want to be his friend?” I asked. I really didn’t want to have this conversation. I knew the more he delved into my feelings, the greater the risk of him discovering that I was gay.
“He feels you don’t want him around anymore,” he stated. “Is that true?”
“He’s got Stephanie now.” I tried to say it to sound like Jason had turned away from me. However, after I said it, I realized that it came out as sounding like I was jealous. I became increasingly uncomfortable as my father stared intently at me.
“You’ve got Cynthia,” he said.
“Yeah, I’ve got Cynthia,” I replied nonchalantly. Again, he studied my face.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked almost in a whisper. I looked up into his face. I felt he knew. It was my opportunity to say something, but I couldn’t.
“No, Dad.” I got off the bed and headed to the door. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go pee.”
I walked across the hall to the bathroom. I locked the door and fell to the floor, pulling myself into a tight ball. I didn’t even feel like crying. I can’t explain it. I just felt tired. I was tired of living a lie. I was tired of getting up each morning and acting like everything was all right. I was tired of going to school each day and being the perfect student. I was tired of coming home at night and being the perfect son.
I wasn’t the perfect son. I was gay.
After giving my father time to leave, I went back to my room. My mother yelled up the stairs that dinner was ready. I walked over to the mirror and looked at myself.
“Ok, Tay,” I said. “Go down there and be the perfect son.”
Dinner was tense at first. I could feel that my parents had been discussing me. I had a feeling they were always talking about me. Every time I’d enter a room, they’d stop whatever they were discussing and give me a phony smile.
“How is the mock trial going?” my mother asked.
“I think it will be fun,” I responded, trying to sound enthusiastic. “I’m going to learn a lot. Mrs. Mason brought in her brother, Mr. Anderson, to help us.”
“Bernie Anderson?” my father asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Do you know him?”
“Of course,” he said. “I put in the plumbing for their new home. He and his partner are a wonderful couple.”
I was taking a drink of milk when he said it. I suddenly started choking. I was surprised that my father had said he found Mr. Anderson and Thomas a wonderful couple. Again, I looked over and saw him studying me carefully.
He knew. I could tell he knew. That was why he had made the statement. He wanted to see how I’d react. I just sat there as my face reddened with embarrassment.
“Well that’s nice, Dear,” my mother said, breaking the tension. “You’ve talked about becoming a lawyer. Maybe this will help you decide.”
“Lawyers make a lot of money,” my father laughed. “Bernie and Thomas are filthy rich.”
Again, he pointed out their relationship. I felt he was trying to get me to question him about them. There was no way I wanted to bring up the issue of homosexuality with my parents. Instead, I tried to make a joke.
“So do plumbers.” I looked at him and grinned. “When are you going to buy me my BMW sports coupe?”
“Honey.” He looked over at my mother. “Would you go turn on the Weather Channel and check the temperature?”
“Why?” My mother looked at him questioningly.
“See if it’s cold enough for Hell to freeze over.” We all burst out in laughter. The rest of the meal was a little more comfortable. They asked me a few more questions about school, but he never mentioned Mr. Anderson or his partner again.
When I went back to my room, I got on my computer and checked my friend’s list to see if anyone was online. I noticed that Jason was. He was probably chatting with Stephanie. I decided to IM him, anyway.
Tay89: hey u there?
I waited a minute for him to reply. He didn’t, so I figured he was away from his computer, or he was still mad at me and was refusing to answer. I decided to check a sports page when the chat box suddenly appeared.
Kooljay: hey ass wipe
I grinned. I knew when he came on like this he wasn’t mad at me.
Tay89: watcha doing?
Kooljay: I was chatting with Steph but she left
I felt my heart sink again. He had only signed on to chat to me when his girlfriend wasn’t online. I knew he had ignored my first attempt to chat.
Tay89: thats good
I was now trying to figure out a way to get out of chatting with him without making it appearing obvious. I knew I had hurt him earlier when I kneed him in the balls.
Kooljay: we gotta talk man
Tay89: so talk
Kooljay: not here
Kooljay: its kinda personal something Steph said earlier
My heart stopped when I read what he had written. Stephanie had probably mentioned to him her suspicion about me being gay.
Kooljay: u still there?
I thought about signing off and turning off my computer. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly type. I knew he was going to ask me if what she said was true. It was something we had never talked about. It was probably something he had never even considered until this evening. I didn’t know how to respond if he did ask.
Tay89: yeah I’m still here
Kooljay: good I thought u left u ok?
Kooljay: so can we talk tomorrow?
Tay89: yeah sure
Kooljay: cool see ya then
I kept going back and rereading our conversation. This was finally it. This was the moment of truth. How was I going to handle it? Stephanie must have told him she suspected I was gay. She had let me know it today in class when she said that Jason was hers. She was now making sure that she exposed me to Jason to protect her property.
I was doomed. Jason could always tell when I was lying, and there was no way I could tell him the truth.