I left Carter’s house before he woke up. I took my clothes into the bathroom and dressed while he still slept. It was a quarter to six, so no one was up as I crept downstairs and slipped out the backdoor.
I was still extremely upset. I was mad at Carter for what he had done. He knew I liked Randy and that I didn’t want to do anything with anyone else. I felt I had betrayed him. Even though I had been asleep when Carter sucked me, I still thought it was my fault because I’d let him finish me off. I should have stopped him.
I didn’t know how I was going to deal with what happened. I had really become fond of Carter. He was a friend and the only person who understood me. He gave me perspective when I thought things were getting out of control. He was also my source for some great weed, which I was beginning to enjoy more and more.
I was also struggling with the idea that I did owe Carter. He had shared his weed with me, and he never asked for anything in return. Once he did tell me he would ‘take it out in trade.’ Maybe that’s what he did.
“There’s always a piper who has to be paid,” I’d heard my mother say many times. I guess my time to pay up had finally come. I still didn’t understand why Carter did it. Was he just a horny kid, or did he have feelings for me? You don’t usually suck a guy off unless you like him. I just wish he would have asked and given me a chance to say no.
I suddenly remembered it was my seventeenth birthday. ‘Happy Birthday, TJ,’ I thought to myself. This was not how I wanted to spend it. Randy was supposed to pick me up tonight and take me to his home for a small party. When I saw him kissing Dean, I knew they were too close to each other to just be friends. Randy was a touchy-feeling type guy; however, he seemed to be a little more intimate with Dean.
I didn’t know where to go when I left Carter’s house. It was too early to go to the mall and hang out. I didn’t want to go home. My mother would probably ask where I had been all night. It wasn’t that she really cared; it was just that I’d never stayed out all night before. Butch would take one look at my red eyes and know that I’d gotten high. I’d never hear the end of it.
I passed by an all-night market and decided I’d go in and buy me something to eat. I had five dollars in my pocked that Carter had given me last night. He told me it was a birthday present when I mentioned it while we were sitting in Ricky‘s basement. The owner was outside sweeping the sidewalk. He looked suspiciously at me when I walked past him. A younger man was behind the counter. He looked up when I entered the store.
I walked through the small store deciding what I wanted to purchase. I figured it’d be the only thing I would probably eat all day. I got a large bag of potato chips and some onion dip. I also picked up a small box of doughnuts. I passed a display of Wild Irish Rose, the favorite wine of street bums. I’d drunk it before when I found a bottle in my brother’s room. I knew the clerk would never sell it to me. He would certainly ask for ID. The only thing I had was my school student card.
The wine was tempting. It was what I needed for a small celebration for my birthday. I could find a secluded spot and have myself a private party. I looked around the store and noticed the cashier busy at the counter. The owner was still outside sweeping litter off the sidewalk. My hands were trembling when I grabbed a bottle of Rose and hid it inside my pants.
I had never stolen anything in my life. I had heard my classmates talk about shoplifting items at the mall, and I found it disgusting. Now I was doing what I had sworn to myself I’d never do. But I deserved it. It was my birthday, and I wanted to feel good. I couldn’t go back to Carter’s house and get high. I definitely couldn’t do it at home with Mom and Butch there.
I walked nervously around the store acting as if I was still shopping. Then I headed to the front and put my purchases on the counter. My hand was trembling as I pulled the money out of my pocket. The cashier studied me as I paid for the items. After bagging them and handing me my change, I hurried out the door.
I thought I had made it safely out of the store until the cashier suddenly shouted, “Thief!” The man outside threw his broom under my feet and I fell flat on my face on the concrete. Before I knew what happened, they pulled me up and held my hands behind my back as they led me to the back of the store.
“Why do you want to steal from us, Boy?” The older man asked as he reached behind me and pulled the wine from my pants. He held it up in my face and shook his head angrily.
“I work hard for my money, and young punks like you think you can just come in here and take whatever you want from me.” He shouted in my face as the younger man tightened his grip on my arms.
“I’m sorry, Mister,” I cried. “I’ve never stolen anything in my life. Please let me go.” I was scared to death. I didn’t want to go to jail.
“That’s what you all say!” the man behind me shouted. “Then you come in the next week and do the same thing. I’ve already hit the alarm. The police should be here in a minute.” He twisted my arm behind my back so tightly I thought it was going to break.
“Today is my birthday. Cut me a break. Please?” I was trying to make a final attempt to get them to let me go. “I’ll pay for it.”
“You want me to go to jail, Kid?” he asked. “I can’t sell you liquor.” I looked toward the door as two very large policemen come walking in. “Happy Birthday, Kid,” remarked the owner sarcastically.
“I see you caught another one, Mr. Mitchell.” One of the police officers laughed as he walked up and took me from the younger man. He threw me up against the wall and placed handcuffs on me. When they took me out and placed me in the car, I saw Carter standing across the street with a worried look on his face. He waved timidly to me when we pulled off.
The next few hours were a nightmare. I was taken to the local precinct and booked. I was charged with petty theft. Everything went by so quickly. I was fingerprinted and pictured. Within an hour, I was standing before a magistrate. Since I was seventeen, they were charging me as an adult. He suggested that I plead not guilty, and then I was assigned a court appointed attorney. Bail was set at $1000. Since I couldn’t even afford $10, I knew I would be incarcerated for a while.
Happy Birthday, TJ.
I’d been locked up for about eight hours, when suddenly the door at the end of the hall opened and I heard footsteps approaching. I looked up from my bed to see Mr. Lawrence standing outside my cell with the arresting officer.
“Hello, Son.” He looked down at me very disappointedly. I buried my head in my hands; and for the first time since my arrest, I cried.
* * * * * * * *
Dean and I searched everywhere for TJ. We got in Dean’s car and drove to the park near the school. He wasn’t there. I think we drove down every street in the city. We next went to the mall and spent two hours searching for him. I wish I’d asked TJ what area of town he lived in. It would have narrowed our search.
We went home around eleven at night. My parents were still up. Dean was planning on spending the night, and then we were going back out searching the next morning- TJ’s birthday.
I had really screwed things up. Dean and I were only playing around, but TJ had no way of knowing that. Sure, we’d had sex before; actually quite a bit over the years. But it was just a buddy helping a buddy out. Whenever he or I became serious about another person, we had an agreement where we wouldn’t mess around. Neither of our relationships ever lasted long, so there wasn’t a large time interval until we would be back in bed together. We had talked several years ago about being boyfriends, but we knew it would ruin our friendship if we did. We were better off as sex buddies, not lovers.
When we passed the den, my parents called us in. They were on the sofa. My father was sitting on one end while my mother was lying with her head in his lap. He was softly stroking her hair. You’d think after almost twenty four years of marriage they’d be past the cuddling stage, but not them. Sometimes it is almost sickening. The next time I bring TJ home, if I ever bring him home again, we’re going to sit on the sofa and make out until we shoot a load in our pants like we did before. That will teach them.
My father asked, “Are you boys ready for the party tomorrow night?” I think they were as excited about the party as I was. They’d bought TJ a gift, but they wouldn’t tell me what it was. I found it in the closet the other day, and I almost tore the gift wrap off.
“I don’t think there will be a party,” I replied sadly. Dean reached over and put his hand on my shoulder. We sat down and explained to my parents what had happened. They weren’t surprised because they knew Dean and I were close. However, I don’t think they had a clue what we did once we shut the bedroom door. Maybe they did and just never discussed it.
Again, I was embarrassed when I had to tell my parents I didn’t know where TJ lived or his phone number. We decided to call Wilson and Trisha in the morning and cancel the party. I was so disappointed. I had really wanted the party to be something special for TJ.
Dean and I went up to my room and went to bed. We slept together, but we didn’t do anything. The moment I met TJ, our rule went into effect. Once in bed, though, he did spoon me and held me tightly. It wasn’t breaking the rules. It was Dean showing his love for me.
We woke up early and resumed our search for TJ. After eating breakfast at IHOP, we drove around town hoping to see him walking down the street. I was also looking for Carter. Maybe he’d know where he was. We ended up at the mall because it was a magnet for teenagers on the weekends. We saw a lot of our friends. We asked them if they’d seen TJ, but no one had. It seemed like he had just disappeared.
I was disappointed when Dean finally told me it was useless to search anymore. He asked me to go to the movies with him, but I told him I just wanted to go home. He dropped me off, and I went straight to my room, lay down on my bed and fell asleep. Naturally, I dreamed about TJ.
I’d been asleep for about an hour when I heard the phone ringing downstairs. I had a cell phone, and most of my friends called me on it. It rang about six times and stopped. I thought my mother had answered it, but I realized they were out for the afternoon and I was alone in the house.
Fifteen minutes later the phone rang again. I got out of bed and went downstairs to answer it. I looked at the Caller ID and didn’t recognize the number.
When I answered it a boyish voice asked, “Is this the Lawrence residence?”
“Yes, it is,” I responded.
“Does a Randy live there?” His voice was quivering, and he sounded extremely nervous.
“This is Randy,” I informed him.
“This is Carter. Remember me?” My heart stopped. I knew he wouldn’t be calling me unless something had happened to TJ. He hated me, so I knew something serious had happened.
“Is TJ all right?” I asked excitedly.
“I don’t think so.” He sounded like he was crying.
“What do you mean you don’t think so?” I asked anxiously.
“I think he’s been arrested.” I let out a sigh. I thought he was going to tell me TJ had been hurt. Being arrested was bad, but the news could have been worst.
“Where’s he at, do you know?”
“No. All I know is I saw him being arrested at a store at Twenty-second and Maple.
“All right. I’ll see what I can find out,” I assured him.
“Okay. Thanks,” he replied.
“Thanks for calling me,” I said appreciatively.
“No problem. Just make sure he’s alright. Bye.” He hung up. I had a thousand questions going through my mind. Why was he arrested? Was he all right? How did Carter know about it? It wasn’t doing any good to worry about things I couldn’t, so I pulled out my cell phone and called Dean. He was knocking on the door ten minutes later.
I quickly explained the situation to him. Before he had arrived, I’d called the police station and found out he was at the Third Precinct. They wouldn’t tell me anything more over the phone.
Just as we were getting ready to head out the door, my parents walked in. They could tell by my agitated behavior that something serious was wrong. I explained to them about TJ’s arrest. My father stopped me before we got to the door.
He explained that there wasn’t anything I could do as a minor. He assured me that he would take care of things. When I told him I would go with him, he refused. He said I was too upset to be of any help, so he made me stay home. We argued for five minutes, but once my dad's mind is made up about something, he won’t change it. I was to stay home and wait.
Dean and I went up to my room, but he left shortly afterwards. He said I was making him too nervous. I kept pacing around my room, occasionally walking over to the window and looking out to see if my father had returned. I was a nervous wreck. About two hours later, I heard my father’s car door slam. I looked out the window, but he was alone. I was sure he would have brought TJ back to our house.
I ran downstairs and met him as he was coming through the door. He was extremely angry. My father is usually a pretty calm guy, but when he gets mad it is best to stay out of his way.
He had me and my mother sit down in the den while he explained what happened. It seems TJ was arrested for shoplifting wine at a carryout. The owners found it hidden in his pants. He was being charged as an adult for petty theft. My father had bailed him out. However, that was not the reason he was so angry.
When he arrived at the precinct, the police refused to speak to him because he was not related to TJ. My father even called his friend who was an attorney, and he told him basically the same thing. They did give him TJ’s home address. Dad went to get his mother so she could get her son released.
His face reddened with anger as he described TJ’s family. He said when he arrived at TJ’s house, his mother appeared at the door drunk. She at first refused to let him in the house, but he pushed her aside and walked in. He said the place was a filthy mess. Beer cans were strewn all around the house. Drapes were hanging loosely on the windows, and the carpet looked like it hadn’t been vacuumed in months.
When he explained to TJ’s mother what happened, she became abusive. He explained that he was the father of a friend of TJ’s. She began cursing about her bno-good son, and that he deserved what he got. My father loves TJ, and it hurt to hear her talk so badly about him. Then his brother came out of the room in his underwear and began ranting and raving.
My father wanted to leave, but he needed their help to get TJ out of jail. After thirty minutes of angry words being exchanged, he sobered TJ’s mother up enough to get her to accompany him to the precinct. His brother wanted to go with them, but my father told him that there was no way he was going to get in his car.
My father’s attorney friend was waiting for them when they arrived. He’d already told the sergeant that he was representing TJ, and he had arranged for his release. My father posted bail and accompanied the sergeant to the cell where TJ was waiting. He said TJ began crying when he saw him. Tears welled up in my eyes when he described how dejected TJ appeared.
TJ was released, and Dad took him and his mother home. My father had asked if TJ could return to our house, but his mother began screaming that her son was not going to be going to the home of a pervert. She said I was the reason for all TJ’s current troubles. He’d been a good boy until he started school and met me. Now he was staying out all night and getting arrested. She didn’t want TJ hanging around a faggot.
My father said he left before he hit her in her drunken face. She was already on her second drink, and they hadn’t been in the house five minutes. He said TJ looked so sad. He walked over and started to give him a hug when TJ’s mother began cursing and asking my father if he was trying to fuck her son, too. She started hitting him and yelling at him to ‘keep his fucking gay hands off her son.’ My father stormed out of the house, almost shattering the door on his way out.
My father was seething with anger. My mother tried to calm him, but he wouldn’t stop ranting. Finally, he went into the kitchen and started yelling on the phone to his attorney friend. He wanted TJ removed from his house.
My mother sat beside me on the couch while I tried to digest everything my father had said. She put her arm around me and held me tightly.
“I know you’re going to be upset with me, but do you think TJ is the kind of boy you need as a boyfriend?” she asked softly.
“What did you just say?” I leapt from the couch.
“Don’t get upset,” she explained. “It just sounds like TJ has a lot of problems. I don’t know if you should be involved with him.”
“Dammit, Mom.” I was seething with anger. “That’s all the more reason he needs me. Stay out of my business.” I stormed out of the den and hurried to my room, slamming the door behind me. I threw myself on my bed and hit my pillows with my fists.
It wasn’t fair. TJ was one of the nicest guys I knew. I knew things were bad for him, but I had no idea just how bad they were. The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to come together. I now understood why he would never talk about himself and why he dressed like he did. He didn’t deserve the hand that had been given him. Now my mother sounded like she didn’t want me to be involved with him. He needed me, and I wasn’t going to turn my back on him. I loved him more now than I ever did.
There was a knock on my door, and my father called out my name. I told him he could enter.
“Son. You all right?” he asked me as he sat on my bed. “You know your mother is downstairs crying right now. You hurt her when you shouted at her.”
“But Dad, she doesn’t want me to see TJ,” I explained.
“Did she tell you that?” he asked calmly.
“No, not exactly,” I admitted.
“She just suggested that maybe TJ has enough problems to handle without trying to be involved a relationship with you.”
“It didn’t sound that way,” I replied angrily.
“We’ve always respected your wishes. You know we support you in any reasonable decisions you make. We will support you on this, too.” He put his arm around me and pulled me into a hug.
“Thanks, Dad.” I kissed his cheek.
“I think you owe your mother an apology,” he suggested.
“I do too. I’ll apologize in the morning.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze and then left the room. I lay across my bed and fell asleep, thinking about TJ.
I was awakened later by a pounding at the front door. At first I thought I was dreaming, but the knocking continued. I looked at the clock and it was 2:18. When I heard my parents’ door open, I walked into the hall and followed my dad down the stairs. He walked to the door and cautiously opened it. He gasped and then disappeared onto the porch. He emerged seconds later carrying TJ in his arms. He had blood all over him, and his face was bruised and swollen. Carter followed behind them with tears streaming down his face.