A Short Story
Copyright © 2016 by Léandre Larouche
All Rights Reserved.
About Léandre Larouche:
I was born in La Baie, Québec—somewhere people solely speak French.
I started writing during my teenage years, in the tongue with which I was raised, and then decided to expand my horizons to English as I was completing my CÉGEP degree. My love-hate relationship with the United States and my malaise toward Canada probably have something to do with it.
There is something unexplainable between English and I.
I am now based in Montréal, Québec, where I attend Concordia University in the Honors English Literature Program, with a minor in Professional Writing.
To our youth.
How ironic it is I don’t dedicate you a story written in the language we speak together. I really wish I did, though, but English is the tongue of my anger; and with what you lived when we were young, Shakespeare’s language was the only answer.”
“The only queer people are
those who don’t love anybody.”
—Rita Mae Brown”
David and I were friends before we entered into a relationship. We were best friends, if you want to know the truth. It started in Elementary School, in a town it’s best recommended leaving if you happen to be gay, and the circumstances in which we met, I must admit, were quite idiotic. I hurt him while playing King of the Hill.
I hurt David while playing King of the Hill on the first day we met.
On that cold January day, some folks from my class brought me to this gigantic ice mountain at the far end of the schoolyard, where people pushed one another from the top. I first regarded the scene with disdain. I wasn’t willing to play the game, as it seemed to me nothing more than stupidly brutal. However, as you may have once experienced in your life, peer pressure got the best of me. I did play the game. I did play King of the Hill, and I realized I actually enjoyed it.
The game remained stupidly brutal in my eyes, but for some reason I was enjoying it.
David, who I had already seen yet never talked to, was one of these boys playing on the hill. I had two thoughts about him, and they both occurred within a thirty-second timeframe: first he was a reckless moron, then he was some sort of god. Rather beefy and good at sports, nobody could dethrone him on the top of the mountain. Nobody at all. However, as I played the game for a little while and found the situation quite unfair, I decided that someone had to act and that person was nobody-but-myself. I was at the foot of the mountain, biting my bloody, hurting lips, and I ran up to the top. When I arrived behind David, I hooked his left leg fiercely to make sure he would fall. We heard a great exclamation that sounded like “Fuck!”, but we couldn’t say for certain whether that was it or something even more vulgar.
A guy named Jason shouted I was a danger and ran to the teacher to denounce me. That goes without saying that my action then had repercussions on the course of our lives, David and I; the school sent David at the hospital for a visit and gave me a couple of days off.
Oh well—shit happens, they say.
Shit happens all the time.
Later that week I had to meet with David and a counselor—official apology time. I was very, very worried about that meeting; I didn’t want to be further punished, and most importantly I didn’t want to see David’s face. Rumors were circulating at school that he was completely disfigured. I wasn’t so fond of the idea of facing the living proof that the game I had taken part in was savage.
I didn’t want to feel like I had been stupidly brutal, even though I knew deep down that was the truth.
Head hung low, ashamed of myself, I entered the room and sat on the old wooden chair. The room was cold as hell—we were in the basement—but the cold wasn’t the first thing to strike me when I arrived. David was gazing mysteriously at me at the other end of the room. He looked like he’d been waiting for me for a while, and I couldn’t really see whether or not he was disfigured because the light was so dim. I could only see his eyes. I got closer to him and the counselor, panicking inside, and finally the growing light gave me the answer I sought—David’s face was fine. It was perfect, actually. I wanted to laugh. It’s funny how kids exaggerate all the time. I couldn’t even see a scratch. While I was inspecting his face, David was still gazing at me in a intriguing way. I’d never seen someone looking at me like that. Behind his severe face I could see a hidden smile.
It wasn’t hard to figure out; his eyes were intensely bright.
As I was looking at him looking at me, I realized how odd he was. In comparison to the other kids, I mean—David wasn’t wearing any brand-name clothes, nor was he wearing a necklace or a watch. We lived in a working-class town where money mostly bought appearances.
I found David pretty unusual, just like I was, although I sure as hell wasn’t as popular as him.
“Alright,” said the counselor, sharply cutting my thoughts. “What do we do with this?” he asked. “How are we going to solve this situation?” He asked his questions with exasperation in his voice. The counselor seemed not to be enjoying himself, and neither did he seem to know what he was actually doing. He wasn’t too tough a man, and it was kind of hard to take him seriously. “I’m sorry,” I said, repeating the simple words I’d been told to by my teacher.
The counselor, so obviously sick of his life, looked at me; he acknowledged my words in silence. He was young—probably still in his twenties—and seemingly disillusioned. He also had a piercing in his nose. As I think about it now, I assume he had recently graduated from College and would take work experience anywhere he could. He didn’t have the local accent and clearly hated the school as much as the town.
“I accept your apology,” answered David, as if he too was just repeating someone else’s words. It all seemed so fake, so prepared; it felt like we had a script and were unconvincing actors in a bad play. It was really lame—institutionally lame. However, although this remains true, I would realize later in life that what was lame wasn’t the fact that we had a script but rather the fact that our story involved an awkward third-party. We didn’t need guidelines to make things right, because things weren’t even wrong. And the counselor didn’t even give a shit. I could see in David’s eyes, anyway, that he wasn’t going to resent me—it didn’t really seem to matter. Shit happened, and we’d get over it—like big boys.
The counselor then lectured us about the dangers of playing King of the Hill, which was now formally, and legitimately, prohibited. When he finished, at last, he gave me dagger eyes, and just like everything he had done, it wasn’t convincing.
He truly was the worst counselor.
We all left the room just in time for the recess. The glorious, singing bell set David and I free in the jungle again. We hurried out the miserable school’s basement. On the schoolyard, a couple minutes later, I saw some kids playing King of the Hill again; I saw a teacher screaming at them to stop, too. I looked at the scene and didn’t care. I already had enough with this idiotic game. I just sat near to the fence, haunted by David’s mysterious demeanor.
A few minutes later, without much surprise, David came towards me. He had his smile unveiled at last. I had almost expected this to happen, somehow. From the start David seemed to have a deep thought in his mind. “Hey, Charlie!” he shouted as he was coming along.
“What’s up?” I asked, standing up, wondering what in the hell he’d tell me. A thousand assumptions passed through my mind. Although I didn’t know what his intentions were, I knew for a fact he wasn’t mad. The eyes I’d seen couldn’t deceive.
David came closer and closer to me.
“That was amazing, what you did!” he said, raising his hand for a high five. “I mean, who’s got the balls to do something like that,” he laughed. “Amazing!” David shook his head insanely with his tongue hung out in what seemed to be an epilepsy crisis—I stood still before him awkwardly. He looked splendid with his delighted smile and his bright hazel eyes. Tiny snow flakes falling from the sky covered his curly black hair. David looked happy—happy, as if the pain had been a great, enjoyable experience for him. I really couldn’t work out what was going on in his head.
This guy was the greatest mystery I had ever encountered.
“I don’t even know why I did that,” I mumbled, unable to accept what I was feeling inside. I wrapped my arms around my body because I was so cold—or paralyzed with shame. A scary thought came to my mind. Perhaps I had enjoyed what my deed. Perhaps it had relieved some sort of tension within myself. However, the problem was that if it were true, it also meant that I was stupidly brutal; and I wasn’t ready to accept that, whether or not that was the truth.
Reality was pissing me off.
David told me about his visit at the hospital, which apparently had been quite terrifying. For everyone but him, he then added. In fact, he wasn’t conscious enough to be scared. Time had been pretty long for his family, though. Doctors and nurses, to the great detriment of his parents, feared he would suffer from the aftereffects of the concussion.
Apparently they worried too much, because David seemed to be just fine.
“It’s funny we’ve never talked before,” then said David. “I always see you on the bus. Don’t you live close to my place?”
“Yeah. Well, I think so.”
“I think you’re a cool dude. We should hang out sometime.”
It was the first time someone ever called me cool. I have no clue if it has to do with how flattered I felt at that moment, but David and I then became best friends and remained so for years to come. The thing is, even though it started oddly, we didn’t just tolerate this starting point of our friendship—we thoroughly embraced it. We always had in mind it was the most important part of us. Our names were our song’s lyrics and the incident its music. It was a funny story to tell, moreover, especially since David would bear a scar forever.
If you wanted to know how we met, the back of David’s head spoke volumes.
I found David weird the first time we talked but it was actually nothing. What the future held, in fact, taught me that his oddness went beyond appearances, and so more than I could possibly imagine. He was crazy in the way troubled kids are, but he was doing it better than most of them. He was a damned joker.
His craziness got more intense from Grade 6 onward. For instance, he once opened the window in the middle of a history class and screamed to the gym class, who was playing soccer just below, “Are you guys done shouting? We’re trying to sleep in here!” It wasn’t really funny, yet almost all the class laughed. That day was a good day, I guess. However, at some other point, he made an equivalent gag of dubious taste and it didn’t have the same effect. As we were going down the school’s packed, narrow stairways during the rush hour, David yelled: “Get the hell out, guys! My nose’s bleeding!” His nose was perfectly fine, which was the joke, but nobody knew because nobody cared. Nobody thought of him as funny that day; people just found him annoying that day.
I gave up trying to understand David’s craziness ever since. I figured there was nothing at all to be figured out—he was just different. His attitude didn’t really bother me, in fact. I just didn’t understand how he acted, and it put me in situations in which I felt awkward. I didn’t even know whether I felt awkward for him or for myself, anyway; I just knew I felt horribly awkward every time he’d crack a stupid joke.
I didn’t question the thing too much.
The great paradox with David was that although his childish sense of humor worked only half of the time, and although he wasn’t coherent with the trends, he stood out more than most of the guys. He became the coolest of his friend circle and could date all the girls he wanted. It was hardly comprehensible, because there were so many other kids who were strange but who were getting bullied. They were almost the same as him; they didn’t display any kind of richness. The only difference, actually, is that they were rather shy. David was always screaming, jumping, or doing whatever would make him the center of the attention.
I wondered whether charism could change things so much, because being different in a mass of plain boys really did pay out for David.
I wasn’t coming to terms very well with the idea of “popularity” in Middle School. To me, the idea that you’d have social privileges just because you were born without shame was scarcely tolerable. On the other hand, David, a.k.a “the cool guy of the school”, was the lobbyist of this coolness economy, and he’d always fight to keep his title. He was like a good old capitalist. Sometimes I felt like I hated him because of that, but I would always change my mind for I didn’t want to let anything shake our friendship.
Obviously I couldn’t do like David did and date all the girls I wanted. I couldn’t even date one, basically. So when he started doing so I really hated him—it didn’t take much time for our friendship to be shaken. As he dated Alice, Chloe, Rebecca, and many others whose names I do not remember, David didn’t give me much of his time. When he wasn’t with his girlfriend he’d be with his guy friends, who were like him more than I was—rather beefy and good at sports. Together they’d talk about life, that is to say, about how to get Meagan.
In the collective imagination, the one who’d get Meagan would be an American hero straight out of Indiana. Some rumors were circulating that she might be a lesbian, which made her seem like a great challenge because she was apparently so damned hot.
The real challenge, however, was mine; I had to keep my anger for myself. I can’t recall exactly how many time I walked up to David and found him with a girlfriend, but God knows it’s a lot. It’s a lot and every time I couldn’t bear it.
I just wanted to smash apart the locker on which they leaned.
The only moments I’d see David alone were the weekends. We used to always sleep in his wooden cabin on Friday nights—sometimes on Saturday nights as well. Otherwise, at school, David would be busy talking with his friends or kissing some girl, leaned against a locker during recess. I loved the nights we spent in the cabin so much. We’d have fun with nothing and wouldn’t question what we were doing. We were so pure and innocent.
The weeks always felt too long. I remember missing David very badly, and so more than once. He was my only friend, my only one; all I wanted was to spend a bit more time with him. Sometimes at nighttime, therefore, I would go walking in the field behind his house. It was minutes away from my place, and even though there wasn’t much to see it made me happy every time.
The sight of the house David lived in was enough to make me smile.
As time went by, my innocence eventually started to be taken away from me; and like all great tragedy, it started with tiny little things. Things such as my awkwardness for the cabin in which David and I slept. It really was awkward. I couldn’t help but question why it even existed; I wondered why David’s dad had built it. I started to see, to feel things around, and I came to the conclusion that he didn’t like his son, or at least not in a way I thought people should like each other.
My reflection upon the subject was never ending. There was always something to add to it, some more evidence worth analyzing. Even though things around David remained a real piece of mystery to me, I became convinced that his dad didn’t like him. It left me with the terrifying assumption that David wasn’t welcome in his parent’s house and that neither was I.
This got me thinking a lot. I wondered about David’s family and the way he had been raised. Was this paternal rejection perhaps explaining his odd behavior? My Dad and I had a terrific relationship, and I never sought so virulently attention from people at school. Furthermore, by putting the analysis on a larger scale, I concluded that the most normal people were the ones who had the most normal relationships with their father.
The thing was, David’s father was recluse in some obscure, solitary shell nobody else could really understand. He was one of these contradictory religious people. He always talked about family or the idea of home. The small, gray house he lived in, built by his father decades ago, meant the world to him. He intended to die in it, if possible—surrounded by his wife and sons.
But the poor man couldn’t even make this house a home to them.
Every time we’d go in the house, David and I were utterly quiet. Going inside served only one purpose, that is, getting what we needed for our night in the cabin. It was like a secret operation, even though our presence was known; we just needed to avoid, at all costs, being some kind of disturbance.
One time when we were in the house, David’s dad scared me to the bones. I had gone to the basement to get water bottles in the fridge, and this very fridge happened to be just next to an half-opened gun safe. When I zoomed in on the white household appliance, I saw the imposing black box that gave away all its secrets—it was full of firearms. Not only was there a large arsenal of pistols but also a great variety of assault rifles. There was material for a massacre, basically. I only had time to glance inside, curious, then David’s father surged behind me with a dead look on his face. He asked me what in the hell I was doing here.
“David sent me to get water bottles in the fridge, sir,” I answered, terrified by his angry look and aware that I would probably stay traumatized.
“Water bottles, really?” he said. “Then why are you looking into my safe?”
“It was opened,” I retorted, almost crying. “I was just curious to see inside.”
“There’s no way to trust these damned kids,” David’s dad said, shaking his head angrily and pushing me out of his way to the safe.
I grabbed the water bottles in a hurry and went back upstairs. David told me, later that night, that I wasn’t talking very much. He said I was kind of boring. I answered there was nothing wrong with me, but deep down I was crying. And so did he, perhaps; I wanted to take David away from this place and flee somewhere we belonged.
When we fell asleep, then, I dreamed of David’s dad coming into the cabin and shooting to death the both of us.
Summer came, and one Saturday night as we were playing around in David’s cabin, I finally realized there could be some sort of attraction between he and I. Not just a friendship thing—a longing of some kind. Things had been changing lately, and I was now more aware of myself. Pretty quickly I discovered I was sick and tired of only being David’s friend. How did I know I might want more from him? I had by now known what it was like to have a girlfriend; and, in my head, therefore, I could imagine what it’d be like to have a boyfriend. They were basically the same thing, I thought.
Although being in a relationship hadn’t been a great experience, I was certain that things would be different with David. He wouldn’t dump me for a taller guy, him, unlike that girl I had dated. The idea of dating a guy didn’t bother me at all, furthermore, as long as the guy was David.
David was truly all I had.
Our night in the cabin consisted in discussing trivial subjects, eating extra-buttered popcorn, and drinking tons of water. We were so young and immature at the time; we had a bunch of water bottles we’d never stop drinking from, because it made us urinate a lot. The cabin was in a tree, so we could do it from the little patio. The stream had a long, long way to go from top to bottom. We always laughed as we looked at it.
My attraction started with me looking at David’s penis. There was nothing sexual; I was just very curious. A penis is a quite useful organ, so you want it to be normal, but it’s so personal there’s no way to know whether it is or not. It’s not like your nose or your ears; you see noses and ears every day. I turned my head a bit and looked at David’s penis to compare with mine. “Why you looking at my cock, little dumbass?” he said, noticing me, in a mocking tone all his own.
“Why isn’t there a skin at the edge?”. I was consternated to discover that our genitals were very different.
“It’s called circumcision,” David answered, in a scholarly manner. “They cut it off when I was a baby. My dad’s Jewish.” He looked proud of his penis. He turned so I could see it better. This is the moment when I felt something deep inside, which I couldn’t clearly understand.
“It’s cool,” I said, trying to maintain composure. “You don’t have to open it and close it when you wash in the shower. It just stays the same all the time.”
“I know, right?” David said, seemingly feeling good about himself for that matter.
“Your father can’t tell you to open the little flower, then”, I said, smiling.
David looked at me, still holding his penis, bewildered. “What the hell is the little flower,” he asked.
“The skin. My dad always reminds me to open the skin when I take my shower. It’s more of a joke; he’s so silly.” Then I laughed.
David kept staring at me oddly. He shook his head and put up his pants. “Even if I had a skin at the edge of my cock,” he said abruptly, “my dad sure wouldn’t say such a thing.”
We went back inside to finish the popcorn. We ate in silence and it didn’t taste the same. David left me under the awful impression I had hurt him. The butter was bitter in my mouth.
Now everything was bitter.
We never talked about penises again, David and I, but I kept thinking about it. Quite a lot, to be honest. I had never seen one like his—I had never seen another one than mine, in fact—and I found it attracting. It was so clean, so neat, which perfectly suited David; it made so much sense to me that he was circumcised.
This was the most subtle detail of the incredible masterpiece he was.
Another night that we were sleeping in the cabin, I became very aware of what was going on in my life. It was late evening so we could see all the stars in the sky, dispersed and divided like human beings on the surface of earth. We had a large window to enjoy the night sky. This view got me into real deep thinking, for some reason—paradoxical thoughts.
“I know there’s still a long way to go,” I said to David, “but do you picture yourself staying here after High School?”
“Here?” he asked, confused. “You mean, this town?”
His brows lifted awkwardly. “Well, I haven’t thought about that yet, but I guess so. Life’s good here, is it not?”
“OK,” I answered. I wasn’t sure whether or not I was disappointed because I had so much expected this answer all along. David was the exception to the rule, and so since Elementary School; it didn’t matter that he was different because he was so cool. Life is good, indeed, when everyone at school likes you.
He could easily stay in this town forever, I supposed.
“How about you?” David asked. I didn’t know if he really cared, or if he just felt like he should return the question for the sake of politeness.
“I think I want to move to the city,” I answered, showing confidence. “I see a window of opportunities out there. And people are more open-minded.”
“What does it matter?” David asked.
“I don’t know. Nothing, I guess.” I wanted to slap him.
We stopped talking and went to sleep. Two unfolded sleeping bags lay on the floor with a couple of pillows. We brushed our teeth, rinsing them with bottled water and spitting the toothpaste to the ground from the patio, and we laid down. It was extremely dark now, and the smell of buttered popcorn was meant to last.
“Indianapolis?” later asked David, out of the blue.
“What?” I said.
“You want to move to the city—Indianapolis?”
“Are you kidding me?” I asked, in utter disbelief. At that moment I felt like David wasn’t getting the point. Was he blind, I seriously wondered. He then asked why, which proved to me that he didn’t get the point at all.
“I can’t stand Indiana,” I answered him. “I gotta move far.”
“No, New York.”
“Oh. Well, that is really far—would you come visit me often?”
“Perhaps,” I said, surprised by his question. I started feeling confused about how things would work, even though I was aware this day wouldn’t come anytime soon. I knew exactly how I wanted things to be, but I didn’t know what David thought.
I wasn’t very confident that my longing would be satisfied, moreover.
“No matter what happens,” I told David, “I always want to be your friend.” I didn’t realize instantly to what extent I was lying to myself. And when I did, there was no coming back from me; I just let the words go and waited for an answer. But there would be no answer. David smiled, I could feel it through the darkness, but he did not answer. He said nothing at all. The silence was killing me, obviously—several stab wounds. Five minutes later, David finally said something: “I always feel you with me, little dumbass.” He was skimming the back of his head, where the scar I gave him remained.
I can’t remember whether David was sleeping at the moment—I figured he was because he didn’t move—but later that evening I wanted to spoon with him so, so bad. Because I couldn’t help it, I inched closer and subtly pushed my body against his. I was careful not to breath on his neck. I listened to my heart pounding and prayed for things not to be awkward if we woke up like that in the morning.
I wouldn’t forgive myself if that were the case.
It must have been much stronger than my will. How can one seriously imagine that what I did wouldn’t have consequences? I guess I thought I was ready to accept them. Of course, things did turn out to be awkward; of course, I screwed everything up. The next morning the sky basically fell on us. When dawn came, surging from behind the mountains, not only were David and I still spooning but we also got caught. Before we could’ve awoken, someone was knocking at the door.
It was Jason, David’s friend and neighbor, and the situation was even beyond awkwardness. We didn’t know why he came that morning but he did—it was around ten o’clock. As soon as we woke up and looked through the windowed door, we saw his horrified face. Jason was completely disgusted; the shock was so great his body seemed about to melt down. And Jason ran away.
I watched him flee through the cabin’s large window—he ran fast for a boy of his age. David, in the meantime, stayed still for a bit and then punched me right in the face, with cruelty.
I left the cabin too, crying harder than I ever had before.
Surprisingly, this event brought David and I closer together rather than keeping us apart. I can’t say it was with good cheer, however; the week after the cabin’s episode was terrible. David lost all his friends, because Jason tattled, and they thought he was gay. Many times at school, at the lunch break or at recess, they would call him “Gayvid” and laugh really, really hard. I was the only one left for him, therefore. At the same time, though, I was the trigger, the sole responsible, for his social downfall. There were two guys you could blame for David’s misery: there was me, who spooned with him, and there was Jason, who opened his big fucking mouth.
David kept hanging out with me; I guess I was still better than utter loneliness. I actually got what I’d been longing for—more time to spend with David. But things weren’t the same anymore—David wasn’t the same. He was much more closed off and a lot less crazy.
I missed my good old buddy and felt miserable about it all.
An intriguing thought remained in my mind all this time. David never talked about the fact that we’d spooned together. When he shouted at me with words that hurt, he called me a dumb fuck, a careless little asshole, stuff like that, yet he never called me a faggot. I know he would’ve have done so if he had wanted to. David wasn’t the kind of guy to chew his words, and “faggot” was a word that often flew out of his friends’ mouths. In fact, I felt like the loss of ninety-five percent of his friends was his sole frustration.
I felt like if Jason hadn’t randomly shown up that morning, in the cabin, things would’ve been much different.
We were at an impasse; time went by so slowly. In some ways, my loss was bigger than David’s; I came to realize that I was losing my will to live. I wanted to tell David that his misery was as painful for me, if not worse, but I couldn’t. I assumed he wouldn’t understand what I meant, and he would have thought it was disrespectful. Also, I felt like if I got hit one more time in the face all of my teeth would fall out.
I still needed my teeth, even though I wasn’t smiling very often.
A little while after his friends cut ties with him, David started to change again. And it was for the best this time—I mean, from my perspective. David started making jokes again and was more joyful in general. He even became a caring being; he was sweet and nice to me all the time. It was absolutely incredible; I just couldn’t believe it. The thing is, I had always liked David despite his faults, and now he had gotten rid of almost all of them.
It made no sense, and I was going crazy—in a good way.
We literally spent all of our time together. From hanging out at recess to going to my place at night, David and I were only one. We also kept sleeping in the cabin on weekends. We were inseparable. David was even more intense than I was; he’d be the one to call or to show up at my place the majority of the time. It even started to worry his father at some point. One day he told him, “Son, don’t you think you spend too much time with this guy, Charlie?” He said that abruptly, with anger and despise in his voice.
“He’s my best friend, dad” David answered.
“Are you sure he’s just a friend?” his father then asked. “I mean, you have other friends, don’t you? Why don’t you spend more time with them?”
“Oh,” said David, lost for words. “They all live far from here.”
“What about Jason? He lives ten minutes away.”
“Well, Jason isn’t really a close friend. He kind of bores me.”
The way David told me how the conversation went was magical. He described every single move his dad and himself made, and repeated their dialogue verbatim. When he was done I told him he should be a writer, write stories and stuff, and he answered he was actually considering it. He’d like to have a fruitful career and he thought he might have the talent. He said he had already started writing stuff about his life in a book he kept hidden.
I was so curious to read this book, but David insisted that it all remain secret.
David’s dad continued fussing about me for a while; he wasn’t going to let it go. He seemed to do everything he could to keep David away from me. But it was all in vain. He wasn’t able to, thank to our multiple stratagems! I actually suspected him of thinking that David might have homosexual predispositions and that he could save him while there was still time—the dumbest idea ever. He would always talk about the difference between boy friends and boyfriends, making his opposition to the latter quite clear.
David’s dad was the most annoying person I knew.
To shut him up, David eventually decided that we needed to hang out with Jason. He told me one morning, “Let’s go Charlie, let’s go get Jason. He’s my only way out.” He looked at me intensely, convinced that his plan was the most viable option in the long run. It was pitiful that so much hope dwelled in his eyes. I knew for sure it couldn’t go right. Jason had already proven himself an asshole.
“Are you crazy?” I said, “He’s the one who made all the trouble! And why would he want to hang out with us? He called us faggots!”
“Trust me,” David reassured me. “I know how these things work. He will.”
“But I don’t wanna!” I retorted. “I don’t wanna hang out with him.”
“Please, Charlie. Do this for me. I can’t bear my dad no more. It’s just a couple hours. We’ll chill out in my room, and it’ll be all over.”
“OK,” I said, resigned. David didn’t really give me the choice.
We were already outside, on the patio, looking at my dad taking care of his trees, so we just left my place and walked to Jason’s house. Jason’s house was a huge, fancy residence just like in movies—the only one like it in the neighborhood. Jason’s parents were rich homeowners from Indianapolis who bought peace of mind in the country. When we arrived close to the residence, though, David immediately changed his mind about the plan. In the front yard, Jason and a bunch of his friends—David’s former friends, in fact—were playing American Football. They were at least nine or ten. “Fuck,” David said. He looked at me panicking and told me to run.
We ran back to my house, and helped my dad with his trees. David, furthermore, never again suggested we hang out with Jason.
One Saturday morning, about a week or two later, I woke up to my mom handing me the cordless phone. I had just passed a wonderful night. I had just dreamed that David and I got acceptance letters from Colombia University, New York. The feeling was magnificent—I couldn’t describe it with words. When I opened my eyes I felt clean and fresh though I was still a bit tired. I pressed the phone against my ear—I was pretty sure it was David—and I smoothly said “Hello.”
“Hey, Charlie,” said David, proving me right. “What are you up to today?”
“Ahem, nothing,” I answered, yawning.
“Great! Let’s go to the mountains.”
When David said the word great I felt like there might something wrong with him. It didn’t really sound genuine. It sounded like he had a broken string in his voice. But this was such a small detail and too much of an assumption. I cleared my mind from this thought and focused on our conversation.
“The mountains?” I asked. “To do what?”
“I don’t know. Enjoy nature I guess.”
I yawned again and said, “OK, gimme an hour.” David showed up at my place just twenty minutes later. He didn’t seem to feel as good as me. Eating cereal with my hair still wet from the shower, I was wondering what had happened to him—he was staring at me in a daze. I didn’t bother too much, because my thoughts then switched to the fact that he looked fabulous in his clothes. He was wearing beige shorts with a dark-purple T-Shirt, and as if it were not enough perfection, he carried a blue, little backpack that made him look like an explorer.
I wanted to kiss him really hard on the mouth.
I rinsed my bowl quickly and we went out and started walking down to the mountain. The day was beautiful; the air wasn’t too hot nor the sky too cloudy. We were pretty lucky in terms of weather that day. Over our heads there was a clean, blue sky in which we could see the depth; and under our feet there was a hilly, green ground on which we could easily lose ourselves. It felt as though we were walking through some old European painting, as boring as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, though, because I really was enjoying the walk.
The air cooled out as we got into the forest, and I thought about asking David if he wanted us to warm one another by hugging. I finally worked that out as being inappropriate. I didn’t have the certainty of whether or not he would’ve liked to, but I knew for a fact what’d be the answer—a big fucking no. While I was hopelessly fancying the warmth of his body, David started searching through his backpack. I couldn’t get rid of the image of the explorer. It was driving me crazy.
I pictured myself leaving for Europe with him.
All of a sudden, my train of thought that had deviated from reality went back on track. Something wasn’t quite right. David now held a pistol and was pointing it at me. The panic was so intense that I almost fell on my knees. A million things passed through my mind at such a high speed I couldn’t even open my mouth and ask what in the hell he was doing. David quickly explained himself, however. He said, “I’m sorry, Charlie, this can’t go on forever.” He spoke very slowly, as if he wanted his vague words to be clearer. I had no idea what he was talking about, really. I didn’t even have time to speak because he continued, with a quite neutral tone. “Remember that book I told you about? The book I write stuff in. Well, guess what, my dad found it.” He remained calm as he spoke, totally disregarding my panic.
“What?!” I shouted, staring at the pistol. “What the fuck did you write in it?”
David turned the pistol toward himself and scrutinized it from all angles.
“Stuff about you,” he answered absent-minded, still examining the firearm. “Things I live. Things I feel.”
The more he spoke the closer I felt to the truth. As intrigued as I was, I just wanted to get to the bottom of the story, so that if I had to die I would at least die in peace. “What did he say?” I asked, sick and tired of him beating around the bush. Impatience had gotten over my fright; I just wanted to fucking know right now.
“He said you made me gay,” said David troubled, and with evident sadness. I was anticipating his tears. It was just a matter of time.
“It doesn’t make any sense, David. You know that, don’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter what makes sense and what doesn’t. Majority always wins, and my dad just won’t let me be in the camp of the weak.”
I wanted to beat the shit out of David. I couldn’t believe how imbecilic he was.
“Do you even realize how stupid this is?” I screamed in anger. “Your dad is goddamn Jewish! Jewish are all but a majority in Indiana.”
“Don’t try to make sense out of my dad,” answered David. “He might be Jewish but he’s got all the American contradictions. And don’t forget that he’s white, he’s straight, and he believes in some force greater than himself.”
“Whatever, David! I don’t care! Your dad’s a jerk. Point this fucking gun at me and shoot the hell out of my head, if that’s what you want.”
“Calm the fuck down, Charlie, goddamnit!” he yelled. “At least you’re not the only one to go.”
“I’m coming with you,” he added, as if that wasn’t clear enough.
“No, David!” I yelled. “Don’t.”
“You don’t understand, Charlie,” he said sobbing. “You don’t understand how hard it is—”
“CUT THE CRAP!” I exploded. “Do you like me or not?”
“I love you, Charlie!” he said through the tears running down his cheeks. “I don’t even just like you, that’s the worst part of it. But it’s fucking impossible here. I’m not like you. I care about what people think of me, and my dad’s not like yours. This town is not for us, and neither is this world. It’ll be less painful if we just go. I don’t feel like going through all this.”
It felt like a hammer was crushing my head. I was dying inside. Words to express how the painful the situation was just won’t come to my mind. And if it weren’t for the fact that I knew David loved me, I would’ve abandoned all resistance. I’m quite certain about that. “Don’t!” I said once again. “We’ll move to the city together. We can do it.”
“Are you kidding me?” David asked me. “We’re fucking fifteen. How do you suppose we do that? No, look, I’m sorry—”
I suddenly got sick in my stomach; David was being so unfair toward the both of us. How could he let himself be beaten this way? I wasn’t ready to go just yet, to die without having truly loved, so I went back to our roots and used a winning strategy. I made David fall by hooking his left leg. He then fired the gun—purposely or not, I didn’t know and never asked afterwards—and my right arm started aching instantly. We both fell on the ground full of mud, and my blood started pouring all over the place.
“Shit!” David screamed. “Shit shit shit!” He looked scared as hell. Covering my arm, I closed up and kissed him on the mouth. He didn’t push me back, so we made out. The pain in my arm, and also in my heart, became much less excruciating at that moment. After thirty seconds or so, David moved back hastily. He took of his T-shirt.
“I love you, Charlie,” he said in a trance. Then he folded the T-shirt in three and used it to cover my bloody arm.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, finally. “I’ll take care of you, don’t worry.”
We sat on the ground for a while, trying to stop the hemorrhage. Good thing David’s T-shirt was dark-purple because the blood quickly soaked it. “What are we gonna say?” I asked, expecting the worst when we’d be home.
“It’s all right,” David said. “I have a plan. I’ll be in trouble, maybe you too, but there’s nothing else I can do. At least they won’t know the truth.”
“OK,” I said, giving my entire trust to the one who had just ‘slaughtered’ me. I was too weak to discuss it, anyhow. “Let’s go now.”
David slowly and carefully helped me to stand up and we started heading back home. I wanted to throw up. I had almost died, killed by the person who mattered the most to me, and yet I didn’t feel angry. My emotions were all mixed-up. I was confused as fuck. Confusion, however, had become with time a normal state of the mind for me, and it made me even more confused—how could I truly know whether or not I was confused? At this very moment I gave up trying to understand why things happen, and decided to focus on how they do. I had almost perished in a bloodbath, and although I couldn’t believe it, I wasn’t eager to grasp an explanation out of it.
I would simply remember how David’s homophobic dad brought us to this point. I would never forget it. Barring that, it happened and that’s it.
We went back to David’s place, which was closer than mine, and got a great deal of shit from his parents. They screamed and cried and hit their son right in the face, just like he had done to me in the past. It must have been a great catharsis for David’s dad to hit someone, because he had no choice but to hate himself; once again he had let his gun safe open. David told his dad we were just shooting trees when the accident happened.
David’s parents didn’t ask for more details; they just made their scene, called my parents, and drove me to the hospital in a hurry.
I spent a few days there. My injury wasn’t threatening, but the doctor needed to make sure everything was fine. My parents announced to me, when I finally got released, that we would move out of town. They wanted to make sure I would never see David again. I wasn’t angry; I understood how they felt about him—the same way I felt about David’s dad.
By any means, being separated was the best thing that could ever happen to us. David’s plan went even further than he had expected.
Being separated turned out to be for the best, but much later in life. Away from each other, longingly, we’d wait patiently for the moment when we’d finally find ourselves again somewhere we belong—the city. It’s now been ten years since everything happened, and Manhattan has been making David and I happy. Not only is it the place where we got married, but also the place where we learned why Jason came to the cabin that tragic morning. One afternoon on fifth Avenue, in a quite unexpected manner, we saw him walking—and Jason saw us, too. He came toward us, so we decided to ask. The question made him smile; even today he remains amazed of his score. He dated Meagan for a week before she dumped him for a taller guy. I guess he’s still the stupid small-town kid, because he couldn’t help but brag about it.
That’s what he wanted to do that morning in the cabin, obviously.
So we told Jason, both of us now twenty-five, thank you, Jason, thank you, really, for ruining our years in High School. That’s all we said, because if we had told him exactly what happened after David and I were separated, he probably would have wanted to die.
As he is still a high school student, Charlie realizes he was born in the wrong place. His friendship with David growing into something else threatens to make him a victim of his small town's conservative community. Being himself appears to be more difficult than it is for the other boys of his age, and the sky above him seems gray because the jokes teens make are the reflection of their parents' hate. Something has to change, because what Charlie feels for David is turning into a Midwestern state of emergency. This dramatic short story questions whether or not you can dismiss your difference if living somewhere people don't preach tolerance.