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Closet Diaries


Joanna Rozo

"Andy?" I called out into the darkness while I knocked on his window. "Andy," I tried to scream, but my voice came out as a whisper so I knocked louder.
The light went on and the window slid open. Most people would be very irritated by someone waking them up at midnight but when Andy saw that my face was covered in dried blood and bruises he immediately forgave me.
"Josh! Holy shit man! What happened? Did you run into Corey and his friends again?"
I shook my head, unable to speak. He helped me into his room through the small window. I stumbled from my fatigue and pain. "Did you walk all the way here?" he asked concerned, for my house was all the way across town. I nodded still unable to speak. If I wasnít limping half the way I would have arrived sooner.
Andy walked me over to his bed and sat me down. He left the room for a moment and came back with a damp wash cloth and a bag of ice. He handed me the ice and started to wipe the blood from my face.
I held the ice to my left cheek, it was already swollen. Andy wouldnít meet my eyes but it was obvious that he ached for an explanation. Although I had been beaten up many times before, it was usually because of Corey and his jock friends.
"Can I have a glass of water?" I asked. My voice sounded small and weak. He set the wash cloth down and left. I sat and stared at the full-length mirror on his door; I didnít even recognize myself. I used to look in Andyís mirror a lot (I donít have a full length one at home) I remember the look in my eyes was that of a small, confused boy, and my posture was awkward and nervous. But right then I couldnít decide what I was seeing in my eyes, and though I was sitting down, I didnít look like a small child.
He returned with a large glass and I drank it without pausing. I set the glass down on his night stand. He waited for me to say something.
"My dad, he, he found my journal," was all I could say.
"Your dad did this?!"
I nodded; my head hurt with each movement though more than an hour had past since my father hit me. "I canít believe this; I mean I know your dad is homophobic, but how could he do this, and to his own son?" Andy stood up and paced back and forth, he cursed under his breath.
"He was drunk."
"Thatís no excuse!"
"Calm down. Iím okay, really."
"Okay? You could hardly crawl through my windowósomething youíve done plenty of times. Did he break your leg too?"
"No, my leg will be fine. He has been very upset since he lost his job at the petroleum company," I donít know why I defended him, part of me wanted to go back home and punch him in the face.
"Being upset doesnít give him the right toó."
"Iím okay, really," I cut him off. Andy sat down again and put his hand on mine.
"Iím sorry for freaking out, but can you blame?"
He could never understand my fatherís hatred for me. His parents knew he was gay and they were fine with it. But my dad was not that accepting. My dad was stuck in his old fashioned ways. He grew up in a town where gay bashing was accepted and probably took part in some of the violence himself.
"Is it alright if I stay here for a couple nights?" I heard the desperation in my voice, it sicken me.
"Of course it is. Youíre lucky my parents are away this weekend." His parents were always okay with me spending the night, but they never let us sleep in the same room. His parents always seemed to away too. If one of them needed to leave, the other would follow; it was like they couldnít be separated. Even when Andy was still middle school I remember him being alone for an entire weekend. If it wasnít his dad on a business trip it was his mom needing to stay with her sister for a few days, because her husband liked to leave a lot, and she wasnít trusted to live on her own.
Andy looked like he was about to cry even though he had been beaten up worse without shedding a tear.
"Iíll be okay, donít worry," I tried to reassure him. We werenít dating anymore, but I knew he still cared about me. Our relationships had ended a few months earlier but I sensed he still longed for the past. We were still holding hands so I squeezed his hand gently as an attempt to cheer him up.
"Do you want to talk some more or just sleep?" he asked as he swallowed the rest of his tears.
"Sleep," I answered. He tucked me into his bed, and then grabbed a pillow and sleeping bag out of his closet. He shut off the light. I heard him try to get comfortable on his uncarpeted floor. Then I listened as he sobbed. I hated that he could feel my pain. I wouldnít have gone to his house if I had another friend to turn to.
When I awoke Andyís sleeping bag was empty, but I heard the kitchen radio playing my favorite station. I stumbled out of bed and limped to the kitchen. Andy was at the stove making scrambled eggs. I sat at his small round table. My body still felt weak.
"Donít just sit there, toast some bread," Andy commanded. I got up from my seat, despite the pain. I knew his kitchen fairly well. I easily found a white loaf of bread in the pantry. I placed for slices in the toaster. I opened the fridge and got the butter. "Get the juice while youíre there," he said as he set the table.
I ate more for Andyís benefit than my own. My stomach was still unsettled, and my swollen cheek made me uncomfortable, but Andy tossed glances at me.
When I finished eating he started to talk. As usual he tried to use words to bridge what he didnít understand, but I couldnít listen, couldnít concentrate on him. My head felt unusually heavy and I found myself staring at the wood grain of the table.
With each breath I smelled the coppery scent of blood left around the corners of my nose, and the skin on my face was stretched tight. I picked up my glass, and it nearly slipped form my fingers. My personal gravity seemed to have tripled.
Andy stared at me. I hadnít heard a word he said, but I was pretty sure he was talking about my dad. I knew he wanted me to be angry, self-righteous. He wanted me to stand up for who I was.
But there was so much more than he realized. I wasnít even sure that I accepted it fully. I mean it was there, I couldnít ignore it, but I still didnít know if it was right. I wasnít even sure who defined right. I was raised on the Bible, I used to seek comfort in it, but I was starting to realize that it damned a large part of who I was.
It had been a while since I believed in that stuff, but the world seemed so much more daunting without a powerful figure to look out for me.
The silence was stretching between us, but I couldnít collect my thoughts.
I stood up quickly, stifled a cry as all my weight came down on my injured foot. I had to grip the back of my chair to ward off a head-rush. Andy hurried over to help.
"Iím OK," I muttered, "I just need a shower."
I hadnít realized how uncomfortable Iíd been until I felt the dried sweat coming off me in torrents of hot water. It took a while to get the bits of dried blood out of my hair.
After Iíd cleaned up as well as I could I stood for a long time just letting the warm water run over me. The water splashed around me and blocked out the sound.
The steam rolled up to hide the world; I felt a fleeting contentment away form the reality I had to face.
I closed my eyes; I paid attention to only the sound of the water. The drops hit the floor with a clash and an echo. The intense blast made my head pound; I reminded myself of my father hung over.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the bruises. I replayed the cause of them in my head. My dad pushed me backward; I tripped on the coffee table. On the floor for a while before he pulled me up and dragged me up the stairs. He threw me in my roomówhere I tripped again.
That was when my mother stepped in and told him to stop. After a slap in the face she gave up. It hurt me more to see him hurt her, then to feel his hand hit me. He pulled me up again and threw me against the wall. My Johnny Depp posters fell to the floor.
I wanted more than anything to hit him backóIím not sure why I didnít. I some how got him out of my room and slammed the door in his face. I locked the door just before he pounded his fists on it. I hid under my bed like a child. My knees were under my chin, ear pressed against the floor, my skinny legs against my chest.
I still heard the pounding. After a moment I realized that it wasnít my imagination, someone was knocking on the bathroom door.
"You still conscious in there Josh?"
I must have been in the shower for a long time. Getting to my feet I turned of the water. Andy had left a clean set of clothes by the sink, which I definitely appreciated. The shower had really helped; the hot water had washed away the heaviness, though it left my bruises painfully tender.
"Oh good," Andy said when I walked into the living room. "I thought you were trying to drown yourself or something." His tone was lighthearted but his eyes wouldnít quite focus on mine. I wondered if he was actually afraid that I was suicidal.
"Iím going to brush my teeth, now that I can finally get into my own bathroom, but what do you want to do today? My parents left me some money, so we could go to movie or something." He was walking towards the bathroom as he spoke. I heard him opening the cabinet and grumbling at the toothpaste tube which was apparently out of toothpaste.
"Stop talking to inanimate objects man." I called from the couch. Andy seemed to find enough toothpaste; his mouth was frothy as he came in to growl something unintelligible through a mouthful of foam.
The phone rang suddenly and he nearly choked on his toothbrush. He gestured for me to pick it up.
"Andy honey, is that you?" It was Andyís mother.
"No, this is Josh. Andyís brushing his teeth. I think heís running to the sink now, heíll be here in a minute." I said.
"Oh, hello Josh, how are you doing?"
"Pretty good," I replied.
"Everythingís ok over there then? Iím just, oh, this phone card is almost out, tell Andy weíll call around eight oíclock tonight, and Josh?"
"If you sleep over, I trust you two to stay in different rooms. You can use our bed if you donít want the couch."
"Alright," I said just as the phone disconnected. I hung up.
"It was your mom." I told Andy. "She said to make sure we sleep in separate rooms."
Andy rolled his eyes. To him it was annoying but to me it seemed almost amazing, proof that his parents accepted him.
"Well Iíve got to buy some groceries. Do you want to walk down to Rite Aid?" Andy asked.
I shrugged. I didnít really want to leave the sanctuary of the house, but I knew that if we sat around too long the subject would come up again, and I really didnít want to talk about my dad, or when Iíd have to go back home.
We moved slowly, my ankle was still swollen. Rite Aid was only a few blocks from Andyís house, but the journey had never seemed so tedious. I was glad when we reached the parking lot, but Andy froze. I followed his gaze. Corey Smith and three of his friends were standing around the entrance.
"You should wink at him." I whispered. Andy actually winced at the thought. "Iíd rather survive the weekend."
Andy was right. Corey could be pretty nasty when he felt like it, but Iíd hate to see him if he felt personally threatened. We kept our eyes averted and thankfully entered the store untouched.
"Do you want some Dr. Pepper?" Andy asked as he walked towards the sodas, he knew it was my favorite drink.
"Sure," I answered weakly. He grabbed a 12 pack. He handed me the soda and got a basket. I followed him around as he got milk, cereal, orange juice, and bread.
He finished paying for his things when Corey and his friends appeared. I heard them approach before I saw them. The daunting sound of their voices made me sweat.
"Look who it is," Corey said, Andy and I avoided his eyes. But we had to turn and face them to leave the store.
We got closer and Corey saw the purple bruises and dark red cuts I was covered in. He looked me up and down; I could almost see the pity in his eyes. He had caused me plenty of bruises before but this was far worse. His friends looked ready to pounce.
"Come on guys, Iím hungry," Corey said and looked away. I had never seen him walk away from a fight before.
"But CoreyÖ" One of his friends started to say.
"I said come on." They moved out of the way so Andy and I could pass. Andy ran and dragged me along as best he could, we didnít stop until we returned to Andyís house.
We put the groceries away and sat down at his kitchen table. Our eyes met for the first time since we left the store and we busted out in laughter, which made my sides ache. We both knew my body couldnít take another beating, and Andy only five feet tall could never win a fight.
When our laughter finally ended I walked over to the living room and turned on the TV. Andy grabbed two sodas and followed.
We sat down and handed me a can. I flipped through the channels quickly just to annoy him; he hated not having control of the remote. He tried to wrestle me for it and I almost spilled my soda.
Andy snatched the remote from me and I tried to get it back. He stuck it down his pants.
"You think thatís gonna stop me?" I asked just to scare him. He quickly removed it from his pants and hid it behind his back. I reached behind him and retrieved it easily. Then I stood up and held the remote high over my head. Instead of trying to jump for it he pinned me down on the couch. If my body wasnít so weak from last night he wouldnít have been able to.
He wasnít interested in the remote anymore as I was pinned under him. I wanted to get up but my body wouldnít move. I closed my eyes as he kissed my lips. We had kissed before and at the time I enjoyed it, but now I just felt nauseous. At least he didnít use his tongue this time. The kiss was short and simple. He quickly apologized for it. He got off me and I sat up.
It had never been this awkward between us. I wasnít sure what to do, but I couldnít sit there with Andy watching me so tensely.
"Iím going to take a walk." I muttered, standing up. By the time Iíd reached the door I realized that walking anywhere was completely out of the question. Instead I sat down in Andyís back yard.
I sat in the dirt and stared at Andyís rusty sing set. We use to play on it when we were in grade school; it was a lot less rusty then. When I grew tired of sitting I decided to lie down. My head was in the dirt as I stared up at the sky. One of the clouds looked like a beer can; made me think of my father.
Sometimes I wished he would just die. The next day was Monday and I had to go home after school. I didnít know how I would face my dad. I didnít even want to look at him.
I heard Andyís footsteps. He lied down next to me.
"Hey, that cloud kinda looks like a beer can," he said after a few moments. We both laughed, causing the awkwardness to cease. I donít really know why we laughed, it wasnít that funny. "Feel like watching a movie?" Andy stood up and asked.
"Sure," I answered. Andy gave me his hand to help me up. I reached for it, and he pulled me to my feet.
"I just got Edward Scissorhands."
"I love that movie!"
"I know you do."
I smiled. Of course he knew. He was probably the person who knew me best. He knew me a hell of a lot better than my dad. After all, I managed to keep who I am from my dad for so long.
I followed Andy into the living room where he put the video into the VCR. I made sure there were a few inches between us on the couch. It wasnít so awkward now, but that didnít mean we were slipping back into our old relationship.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Johnny Depp is my favorite actor, and heís especially hot in Edward Scissorhands. By the time it was over I felt as if the couch had molded to me. I didnít want to move. Andy brought out his old Nintendo, and we took turns playing Donkey-Kong. Then we battled in a table tennis game. By six-thirty we were both hungry.
"Stay here, Iíll microwave some pizza." Andy said.
Usually I try to help in someway, even in something as simple as micro waving pizza. I hate feeling pampered, but my body was sorely protesting the earlier exercise, and I really didnít want to get up.
The rest of the evening passed in a hazy blur of TV shows. When the phone rang at eight oíclock, it woke me out of a half sleep; my head had come to a rest on Andyís shoulder. I pulled away. It was almost too much effort, but I didnít want him to get any wrong ideas. I curled up on the other side of the couch with my head on the armrest.
My tiredness was frustrating. Not only did it mean that I wasnít going to get anything done today, but it meant that it would take a while for me to fully recover.
Andy returned from answering the phone. "My mom says hi."
I couldnít bring myself to reply, I was nodding in and out. Andy got up and came back with some blankets and a pillow. He placed the blankets over me and lifted my head to put the pillow under.
I watched him with my eyes half closed as he turned off the TV and put our dishes away. Before he went to his room he kissed me on the forehead.
I awoke to the sounds of Andy getting ready in his room. I realized that I too had to get up, but I didnít move until Andy came by and hit me softly on the head.
"Get up, weíre gonna be late."
I got up regretfully as every muscle in my body seemed to ache. Andy handed me a change of clothes. I went to his bathroom to change. By the time I came out Andy had already toasted me some pop tarts and served me some milk. I sat down at his table and ate quietly.
When we finished eating Andy took our dishes to the dishwasher. I watched him as he rinsed off our dishes and carefully placed them in the dishwasher.
"Andy, do you have an extra toothbrush?" I asked realizing that I hadnít brushed my teeth all weekend.
"I think so," he said motioning me to follow him. He opened the medicine cabinet of the bathroom and pulled out a new tooth brush. How convenient, I thought.
I stared at both Andy and I in the mirror as we brushed our teeth. I realized how attractive he was, and how attractive I wasnít. Why does he like mo so much? I looked at Andy then at myself. He had soft, dark brown hair that went a little past his ears. He had amazing green eyes, and naturally tan skin. He also had the cutest crooked smile. Whereas I had short brown hair, large ears (like my dad), and my skin was quite pallid. My appearance was plain, nerdy. Andy, though a bit on the short side, was much more attractive. Not that I still liked him or anything. And if I did it was a subconscious feeling. To be honest I donít think I could handle a relationship right now.
As Andy and I got on the bus together the kids snickered and made rude comments about us under their breaths. I didnít ride Andyís bus but the bus driver didnít seem to care. When the other kids threw things at us while yelling words like fags and freaks the bus driver kept his unconcerned expression.
Andy and I were used to these kinds of things, it happened on a daily basis. We just ignored them and after a few minutes they got bored and stopped.
That day came and went, though I wanted it to last forever so I wouldnít have to go home.
When I got off my bus I dreaded every step I took towards my house. When I opened the door the first face I saw was my grandfatherís. One of the last people I wanted to see. The man my father modeled himself after. They even had the same name.
The only good thing about my grandfather was that he was rich. He helped us out a lot when my dad lost his job. He was always there to get my father out of what ever hole he dug himself into.
"Hello Joshua. How was your day?" he asked nervously, almost as if we had just met.
"Fine, grandpa, how was yours?" I replied slightly rudely.
"Fine, fine, uhh, do you have a lot of homework?" he stuttered more than usual, like he was uncomfortable being around me, talking to me.
"Not really, why?" I asked in the same tone.
He handed me a bible. Then he forced a smile and said, "Here Joshua, this will help you with your, uh, problem."
"My problem?"
"Yes, youíre problem." He said then headed towards the kitchen. It was obvious my dad had told him I was gay and that was probably why he didnít ask about all the bruises. I set the Bible underneath one of the sofa cushions and went to my room. I was pissed I couldnít even yell.
My Johnny Depp posters were still on the floor. I didnít bother to pick them up. I went to my desk to start my homework instead. My dad took pride in the fact that most of my classes were advanced, but it didnít matter anymore. I spent each moment in fear that any second heíd come into my room and start hurting me again.
By five oíclock I was done with my homework. I crawled onto my bed and stared up at the ceiling. I tried to forget what happened. I wanted to forget everything.
I heard a knock at my door about an hour later. My mom set a plate of food on my desk. I looked over at her.
"Your father doesnít want you to eat with us sweetie. Iím sorry," I could sense the sympathy in her voice. She bit her lip to keep from crying. She knew dad was being too harsh, but she wasnít going to do anything about it. I never understood why she couldnít stand up to him.
She left not closing the door all the way. I got up just as my sisters walked by. I saw a look of disgust in their eyes and I knew they probably werenít going to speak to me again. Not that they spoke to me much now. They started ignoring once they became teenagers, but they never acted as if they hated. I slammed the door and went back to my bed. I curled into a ball, my body still sore. And for first time in years, I cried. I cried my eyes out, it felt like I couldnít stop.
I donít know how long I was crying but by the time I stopped I was tired and hungry. My dinner was cold, but I ate it anyway. I waited until nine oíclock to take my plate to the kitchen, hoping everyone was in their rooms.
I got to the kitchen and luckily no one was there. But the recycle bin was overflowing with beer bottles. I placed my plate in the dishwasher and went back to my room.
Suddenly it occurred to me that Andy was probably pretty worried about me. The last thing I needed right now was a phone call from a guy late at night.
I crept down stairs and brought the cordless phone to my room. I dialed Andyís number automatically. He was the only person I ever call.
He answered on the third ring, and literally breathed a sigh of relief when he heard my voice. For some reason it annoyed me. I guess I felt like he didnít believe I could take care of myself.
"Thank God youíre ok, your dad didnít flip?"
"No, I havenít seen him." I replied.
"What do you mean, did he leave or something?" Andy sounded hopeful.
"No heís avoiding me, ignoring my existence." I said calmly, but my throat was constricting.
"Well thatís not so bad is it?" Andy said. "I mean, heíll leave you alone right?"
I tried to reply, but my throat was too tight. I swallowed a few times.
"Look I donít want to talk about it right now. Just donít call me tonight. Heís drunk of his ass, and anything might set him off." I realized after I said it that the beer bottles might not have all been recent. I hadnít been home to do the recycling for a few days. If Mom was busy, no one else would bother.
Andy had gone quiet. "Ok." He said softly. "Iíll see you tomorrow." His voice had gotten smaller, and suddenly I didnít want him to go. I muttered my good byes and hung up anyway.
I felt like crying again but there was nothing left in me. I was left with a sort of empty restlessness. I got up and tacked Johnny Depp back on the wall. Then I organized my CDís and alphabetized my bookshelf.
When I couldnít think of anything else to do I sat down on my bed. I wished I had more homework to do, the silence was driving me insane. I got up to put the phone back on the hook, and met our cat, Mittens, stumbling down the stairs. Evidently someone had left an unfinished beer can somewhere. I found the cat food bag and filed his dish, wondering if anyone had remembered to feed the cat while I was gone. Mittens hurried my way at the sound of the cat-food bag, and after stumbling pitifully into the doorway he managed to find his way to the kitchen. He usually eats when heís drunk too much, which is often, it keeps him from getting hung over. The kitty is smarter than my sisters that way.
When I opened the fridge I saw a few beer bottles left. I stared at them. Everyone in my family had a drinking problem, including the cat. Itís a wonder I havenít started yet. I shut the door quickly. What was wrong with me? I had never been tempted to drink before.
I quickly walked back to my room. I almost slammed the door again, but then I remembered I didnít want to wake anyone. My body was sore and needed rest, but I wasnít tired. So I just sat there, at my desk, doing nothing.
I heard some foot steps so I shut off my light. I went back to my desk to sit in the dark. Hours went by and I was still sitting there, staring at the darkness.
I fell asleep an hour before my alarm came on. But when I awoke I wasnít tired. I didnít bother with a shower. I got ready quickly just wanting to get out of the house. Luckily my dad was still asleep when I left. My mom had already gone to work and my sisters were sleeping off a hangover.
I was at the bus stop ten minuets early. It was cold, but at least I was out of the house. I watched with slight relief as my house shrank from view outside the bus window, it was then I decided I couldnít live like this. Eager to get to the bus which would take me away from my house only to deliver me to school, which wasnít much better. I gazed at the familiar buildings passing by outside the window, and resolved to find some way to improve my life. The decision made me feel a little better. I didnít have a great plan, but it felt good to be actually seeking something instead of just avoiding it.
With the look of relief on Andyís face when he saw me that morning I was afraid he was going to try and kiss me again. I had forgotten that Iíd hung up on such a tense note last night.
Instead he just greeted me and we walked to the locker that we shared.
"I got a new Johnny Depp movie; you should come over and watch it."
"I would love to!" I said eagerly.
"Well itís not new, but Iíve never seem it before."
"Whatís it called?"
"Benny and Joon," he answered. Then the bell rang so we went our separate ways.
Concentrating on my class work was hard when there were pencils flying at my head. And of course the teacher did not punish the kids throwing the pencils. I was so happy to get to third periodóit was the only class I had with Andy. Health wasnít exactly our favorite class, but having each other there made it worthwhile. Andy appeared just has happy to see me. I noticed some staples in his hair, which was no doubt something that had been thrown at him in a previous class.
Andy and I sat together, since Mr. Ricky didnít instruct us to take notes on the film we had been watching for the past few days Andy and I wrote to each other all period, paying no attention to the video.
Do you want to ride the bus to my house? Andy wrote.
Sure Iíll call my mom when I get there, hopefully she wonít mind. I replied.
My parents can give you a ride back home after we watch the movie.
Your parents are back?
Yeah, the came back last night.
They donít mind driving all the way to my house?
It isnít that far, in a car anyway.
The next four periods dragged on. I spent most of my classes watching the clock. I just wanted to be somewhere where I didnít have to watch my every move. When I finally got to Andyís house I was feeling so giddy that I was practically jumping up and down. Andy caught my giddiness and before I knew we were laughing at ever second of the movie, mostly the comments Andy made about the movie. He kept making fun of Joon since she ended up with Johnny Deppís character and we both were insanely, and secretly jealous of her. I was still feeling relaxed and happy when Andyís parents drove me home. Although it was already past eight the lights were still on. No one greeted me when I entered my home. My family was watching a football game in the living room. I sat down on the couch next to Barbra (my eldest sister). She reached across to grab her beer can from the table next to my side of the couch. She didnít even look at me. I couldnít concentrate on the game, and after a few minutes I silently got up and left.
In my bedroom, I turned on my CD player, trying to drown out the uncomfortable silence. I dug around in my closet until I found my photo album. Iíve take a lot of pictures since I first got into photography, only the best of which made if into my album, still itís more than half full.
Thereís a big section of Andy, I took a lot of pictures of him, especially when we going out. Once we even picked out a bunch of outfits and he let me pose him with various colors and backgrounds. It felt like a celebrity photo shoot, but more artistic.
Andyís the only person who turns up with so much frequency in my album. There are a couple of my sisters, pictures that they didnít even notice I took. One of them is of them past out on the porch swing even though it was only eight. They somehow looked angelic though, one resting their head on the other, both wearing white summer dresses, contrasting with the dark wood of the swing. I donít have many pictures of my family. My dad was never too fond of the idea of me being interested in an artistic field. I usually took pictures away from my house.
I hadnít used my camera in a while, probably because there wasnít anything interesting around my house. I stuffed my camera in my back pack and went down stairs.
"Iím going to the library," I announced as I past my family in the living room, they didnít reply. They usually wouldnít let me go out so late, but I guess they didnít care anymore.
I was headed towards the library because next to it was a poetry cafť. I really liked the atmosphere of the place and I loved the smell of coffee and cigarettes. Most of the poets werenít half bad and no one seemed to notice me taking pictures of them.
There were a couple of tables outside the cafť, for the smokers, somewhat pointless since the smell traveled into the brick building anywayóno one ever closed the front door. A woman in about her thirties sat at one of the tables by herself. She looked really nervous, and kind of paranoid. About twenty cigarettes filled the ashtray in front of her; still there was a cigarette between her fingers.
I had to get this wreck on film, lucking she couldnít see me from my position. It was a perfect snapshot. And by the time I reached the cafť she had left. I took a close-up of the overflowing ashtray, thankful that I had black and white film. I had to remember to show these photos to Andy, he would love them.
I entered the building, to the sound of Bob Marley softly playing in the background. The walls were covered with artwork from local artist. I sat at my usual table in a back corner. There was a new painting on the wall near me. I took a picture of it.
A very attractive guy appeared on the stage. He must have been new to the cafť because I didnít recognize him. I stared in awe as he read his poem. Most poets werenít brave enough to talk about their sex lives, but he spoke with confidence. He could have been talking about a guy in his poem, I wasnít sure.
When he finished only I and a couple other people clapped, but he still smiled as he got off stage, unfazed by the lack of cheer in the audience. The next poet was horrid in comparison, but got more applause. He seemed the have the same opinion of her. I watched him silently laugh and sip his coffee. I couldnít help myself; he was so striking, so I took a picture.
Another poet read another crappy poem; he was just as bad as the last girl. He was the final poet. When he finished the gorgeous guy seemed to glance at me, as if sharing the same distaste for the poetry.
After the so-called poet sat down the attractive one walked over to me, causing me to almost drop my camera.
"Hello there, Iím Andrew," he said suavely and stuck out his hand.
"Hi, Iím Joshua," I replied nervously and took his hand. He sat down in the chair next to me.
"So, Joshua, did you like my poem?"
"Yes, I loved it."
"Do you write poetry Joshua? Or are you too busy taking pictures of other poets?" He eyed me suspiciously and I tensely laughed. "How old are you Joshua?"
"Eighteen," I lied.
"Thought so, do you go to the local collage?"
"Um, yeah," I lied again. He took a sip of his coffee that I just noticed he had with him. He seemed soÖconfident, the opposite of how I felt. I didnít understand what made him want to talk to me, here I was a scrawny, dorky, 15 year old with a camera; there was nothing special about me.
"That painting, right next to you, is mine," he pointed at the artwork, then at himself. "I noticed you took a picture of it earlier, thought you would like to know the artist."
The painting was of a guy who had hung himself on a tree. His tongue was sticking out and his face was a bluish color. The night sky in the background reminded me of van Gogh. The stars and the noose stood out because of their gold colors. The rest of the painting was in shades of blacks and blues.
"I really like the way you did the sky," I replied.
"Thank you."
"Did you go to an art school?"
"No, it was all innate talent."
"How old are you Andrew?"
"I just turned 21."
"What do you do?"
"I work at my dadís auto shop."
"You get along with your dad?" I asked toying with the sugar dispenser.
"In a strictly business relationship, yes," he said shortly.
"Do you get along with your dad?"
"Not exactly," I answered.
"Is he an asshole?"
"Heís a lot more than an asshole." He could tell I was feeling uncomfortable so he changed the subject.
"So do you like this song?" Bob Marley was still playing softly in the back ground.
"Itís alright," I replied.
"Yeah, I was never really into reggae but itís not that bad."
"What sort of music do you usually listen to?"
"Pink Floyd, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the classics. How about you?"
"A little bit of everything I guess."
"Do you have a favorite band or singer?"
"Not really, I like Incubus."
"Yeah, theyíre alright, for a modern band anyway."
"Yeah," I felt embarrassed at my lack of good taste. I looked up at the clock on the wall a few feet away. "Itís getting kind of late. Will you be here tomorrow night?"
"Sure, around the same time?"
"Okay, itís a date."
On my way home I saw a trash can with a rose in it. I took a picture almost without thinking. When I arrived home the lights were off. On my way to my room I tripped on some beer cans. Then I tripped on the cat. I opened my door to see my sister Jenna sitting on my bed. She looked like she had been crying.
"Josh, I donít know where Barbra is," she sounded really scared.
"What? Well, when was the last time you saw her?"
"A couple hours ago, I think. Iím not sure. We were at this party. She went with this guy to get some more beer. They said they would be right back. The party ended and my friend needed a ride home. I thought maybe she would be here. Iíve been home for about an hour and she hasnít called." These were the first words she has said to my since my family found out I was gay, and they were words I really didnít want to hear.
"Did you call the place the party was at?"
"Yes, about ten times, they havenít seen her."
"Who was the guy she left with?"
"I donít know, Bill or Rick."
"You donít know!" I almost screamed.
"Shhh, I donít want to wake mom and dad, especially dad."
I stopped pacing & looked her in the eye, "Jenna, we need to go look for her."
"Alright, get your coat, but be quiet." I grabbed a sweater and we went down stairs. We drove to every liquor store in town. Then we went to my sistersí friendsí houses. No one had seen her. At first I was really angry with Jenna for letting something like this happen. But I couldnít really blame her, she was used to Barbra being in control, Jenna was always somewhat of a sidekick. Although Jenna was about 19 at the time she reminded me of a child; a poor, pathetic child.
"What did the car that she leave in look like?"
"Uhh, it was green."
"It had a bumper sticker from Starbucks or something."
"Thatís real descriptive: at least half the people in this town have a Starbucks bumper sticker. How drunk did you get at that party?" I could tell I hurt her feelings so I quickly apologized.
"There it is!"
"The car I saw her leave in!" Jenna pointed to a green Honda Civic in the parking lot of the theatre. We drove into the almost empty parking lot. Jenna stopped the car next to the Honda and we hastily got out. Bill or Rick was no where in sight and Barbra was passed out in the passenger seat. Jenna banged on the window starling Barbra.
"Jenna, oh my god!" Barbra said as she opened the door. She fell into Jennaís arms and started crying.
"What happened?" Jenna asked as she tried to move her to their car. Barbra couldnít respond. I sat in the back and watched my sisters as we drove off in silence. The three of us remained silent until we got up stairs. Barbra kept walking toward her room, but Jenna grabbed me by the arm just before I got to my door.
"Josh, wait." I turned around and looked at her. "Thank you, I donít think I couldíve handled this without you." She hugged me and left. I stood at my door dumbfounded; I guess she didnít hate me after all.
The next day Jenna told me she wanted to stop drinking. She said she needed me to help her. I agreed to, but wasnít really sure either of us were strong enough.


Part II:
Andy, a few weeks laterÖ

I stared into the bathroom mirror with disgust. Josh always said I was good looking, but then he dumped me. As I brushed my teeth I was tempted to shove my tooth brush down my throat. Last nightís dinner was my first meal in a couple days.
My first attempt of induced vomiting failed, but still hurt like hell. My second endeavor was a success. I gazed down at the vomit in the sink. I turned on the water and watched it all go down the drain, then I brushed my teeth again.
I headed out the door to wait for the bus. When I arrived at school Josh was already there.
"Hey, Andy, how was your weekend?"
"Fine and yours?"
"Iíd rather not talk about it."
"Your dad?" I asked. He lifted up the sleeve of his sweater to show me his large bruises and what looked like cigar burns. I touched them gently and he winced with pain. "Sorry," I apologized.
"Donít worry about it." He gently tugged his sleeve back down.
"So, how are things with your sisters," I had to change the subject.
"Great actually, theyíve been sober for the past couple weeks and weíve actually been getting along, like we used," he said with a nostalgic smile.
"Thatís good. What ever happened with that Andrew guy?"
"Ah, nothing, I havenít seen him in a while," he answered nervously. I knew he was lying. He and Andrew had been fucking for weeks, but he wouldnít admit it. He didnít want me to know that he was a fucking whore. Sorry, for the language, I guess Iím a tad jealous, though I would never confess it to him. While we were dating we never got further than making out, we never even talked about sex. Not that I didnít think about it.
I was convinced that Andrew was using Josh, but I didnít feel it was my place to say anything, plus who knows, I could be wrong, maybe they really are in love. Josh didnít talk about Andrew much, but some things you donít really have to say. As the bell rang we walked to our separate classes.
During lunch all I had was an apple. After walking Josh to class I went straight to the bathroom to throw it up. I wanted Josh to like me again, and forget about Andrew. Itís weird that we have the same name, although the only people that call me Andrew are my grandparents.
That evening my mother made a delicious dinner that looked quite disgusting in the toilet. Since my shirt reeked of vomit I changed into my Black Sabbath t-shirt that I often slept in. It was only half past seven, but since I had no homework I decided to crawl into bed. I didnít even bother taking off my jeans, I had seen enough of my grotesque body for one night.
I awoke around three in the morning, feeling quite hungry, but I did not get up. Four hours later my alarm clock went off and my hunger pains were gone. I lied in bed for another half hour. I got dressed quickly, told my mom I would eat at school, and ran out the door.
When I got to school I stared at the breakfast line from my locker. I stood there until the bell rang to go to class.
By lunch time I was feeling light-headed. I told myself that meant I shouldnít eat. I used my lunch money to buy a bottle of water. I worried that Josh would ask about my lunch, but as soon as we sat down were being pelted with bits of food from the football team. They were all pepped up for that nightís game.
Josh and I spent our lunch in the science wing which always smelled like formaldehyde. Neither of us was really in the mood to eat or talk.
Directly after lunch I had biology. We were dissecting large, soggy crayfish, and the pungent smell was making me dizzy. I set my hand on the table to steady myself. "Are you alright?" my lab partner asked.
"Yeah, just a minute." I walked to the teacherís desk and asked for a bathroom pass. She looked at me skeptically but started to write one anyway. The words she wrote began to blur in and out of focus. I stumbled against a desk on the way out. My dizziness decreased as I got to the restroom. I turned on the sink and splashed water on my face.
The reflection of my dripping face looked angry. It had only been a few days, why was my body so weak? Then some guy strolled in and glared at me harshly until I left. Along with the locker room, the restroom was one of the least welcomed places for a known gay guy.
I made my way back to my class; it took so much energy to try not to throw up on myself. The smell was unbearable, I felt myself going weak. My lab partner ended up doing most of the work, but she didnít seem to mind because she was really into science, or maybe just into dissecting things, I couldnít tell which.
The next two periods went by in a blur and I almost passed out on my way to the bus. I sat in the front seat as usual, so when I got off no one could trip me. "Andy, Andy!" the bus driver yelled, I didnít realize it was my stop for I had fallen asleep.
I quickly grabbed my things and hopped off the bus. As I entered I greeted my parents then threw my backpack in my room. I returned to the living room to watch TV with my mom. "Did you have a good day at school dear?" my mom asked without looking away from the television screen.
"Yeah, it was fine," I replied sounding more depressed than I intended, causing her to look away from the TV.
"Andy, honey, you look a bit pale, are you alright?"
"Iím fine mom," I answered unconvincingly. She looked concerned but changed the subject anyway.
"Well, okay. When you get hungry just heat up the leftovers from last night," she replied and turned back to the TV. Her show began to bore me so I went to my room to do homework.
I stared blankly at my math book unable to concentrate. Math had started to get complicated for me ever since they started adding letters to the equations, and for some reason I couldnít really read. I couldnít tell the xís apart for the divisions signs. The numbers and letters just blurred together. I sat motionless for a few minutes just staring at the jumble of equations. I leaned back in my chair. When I fell backward I didnít bother to get up. I almost didnít even feel my back hit the hardwood floor. I just stared up at my ceiling, and thought about Josh. Why couldnít he just like me again? I missed him so much. Should I call him? No, heís probably with Andrew. I hate Andrew.
Hours went by, and I was still on my floor. My homework was unfinished, and my stomach was empty. I felt no need to eat, or solve equations. I just want to stay where I was.
I woke up on the floor a few hours later. I didnít bother getting dressed, I just shoved my things in my backpack and left. Again I was running late, so again I told my mom I would eat at school, and again I intended not to. I got on the bus and there was someone in my seat, but there were no other available ones so I sat next to him. He didnít tell me to move like most kids did. After a few minutes I realized I had never seen him before. "How much longer until we get there?" he asked after a while.
"About fifteen minutes or so," I answered.
"Iím James by the way," he stuck out his hand for me to shake, unusual for a teenager to do.
"Hi, Iím Andy," I shook his hand awkwardly
"Nice to meet you Andy," he said kindly; much different then the usual get the hell away from me fag!
"What grade are you in James?"
"Me too. Do you have your schedule?" I asked. He pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. We had every class together, except health, the class I had with Josh.
"So do we have any classes together?" he asked curiously.
"We have all but one class together."
"Awesome. Which one donít we have together?"
"Third, I have health, you have art."
"At my old school they make you take health freshmen year."
"Do you want me to show you around before class starts?"
"Sure, thatíd be great," he answered excitedly. Some guy sitting behind us made a rude comment that I chose to ignore. James gave me a funny look but didnít say anything. When we got to school he followed me to my locker, Josh was already there. "Hey Josh, this is James, heís new."
"Hey James."
"Hello Josh."
"Do you want to help me show him around?" I asked Josh.
"Sure," he said. I put my math book in the locker and grabbed my history book. Josh and I showed James where all his classes were. Then we showed him where we were going to sit during lunch so he could meet us there. He asked why we sat in the science wing and we told him the cafeteria was too crowded.
"We have a few minutes until class starts, do you guys want to sit in the library or something?" Josh asked. We both nodded. When we sat down Josh pulled out something from his backpack. "I just got my film developed. There are some old photos of you and some of the cafť." The first ten or so were of me.
"You look really good there," James pointed out, the photo happened to have me with my shirt off. His comment made me blush and wonder if he was being sarcastic.
"I really like this one," I said when I picture of a chick smoking at a table that had an overflowing ashtray on it.
"I knew you would," Josh replied.
"This oneís cool," James said about the photo of painting of a guy hanging from a tree. I thought it looked like the artist was trying too hard to be van Gogh.
"Is that Andrew?" I asked rudely.
"Whoís Andrew?" James asked.
"No one," Josh answered trying to find the next picture without Andrew in it. He stopped at a rose in a garbage can; all three of us decided it was the best one. Then James added that he still really liked the one of me that he pointed out earlier. I blushed again. The bell rang and we said bye to Josh as he went to his advanced math class and we left for history. It felt kind of weird walking with someone that wasnít Josh.
When we got there Ms. Turner sat James next to me which probably wasnít the best idea since we talked the whole time. Then she assigned a group project, making it okay for us to talk.
The project involved writing a persuasive essay and speech on a current political issue. An issue that she picked for us, randomly out of a hat. The girls sitting next to us laughed as Ms. Turner gave James and me the issue of same sex marriage. The giggling girls got medical marijuana; I desperately wanted to trade with them, but I knew they wouldnít want to.
"So, whatís your opinion on same sex marriage?" James asked.
"I think itís stupid that itís even an issue."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, why do people care so much when people of the same sex get married?"
"Probably because most people are or claim to be Christian and the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong."
"Well, not everyone in this country reads the Bible, so why should the belief of some people be made into a law?"
"HmmÖthatís a good question. I guess I never really thought about it."
"Itís so unfair, how could you not have thought about it?"
"I donít know. So, I guess weíre arguing why same sex marriage should be legal."
"Yeah," I said kind of rudely. He asked me to expound more on the issue and the more I talked the more he seemed convinced that I was right. Eventually his opinion was almost as strong as mine. "Can I do the speech?" he asked interrupting me. "You can write the essay, Iíll summarize it and use it as the speech."
"Alright, Iím not that great with speeches anyway."
"I love doing speeches, especially persuasive ones. Once I persuaded my entire history class that they should join the green party, when they were old enough."
"Your entire history class?" I asked skeptically.
"Well, the majority."
"I like writing essays, but getting in front of crowd scares the shit out of me."
"It shouldnít, youíre very persuasive. Not in the same way I am, Iím just good with words, but you actually have the facts."
In math James was seated behind me. He decided to spend his time poking me in the back when he had a question. Sometimes he just did it to annoy me, which I found more cute than annoying.
During health I found myself missing James and Joshís presence wasnít making up for it. I sat there waiting for my next class. The class that I dreaded more than anything: physical education. But at least James would be there.
Finally P.E. (or as I like to call it hell) started. Mr. Johnson was okay with me not taking showers, but he said he would fail me if I kept changing in the bathroom stalls. The other guys kept about 50 feet away from me while I changed next to my locker.
James seemed curious as to why I was so isolated but didnít bother asking about it. I hope he didnít notice me staring at him. I usually stare at the floor while in the locker room, but the temptation was too strong.
I survived gym and left early to go to the science wing to wait for Josh and James. Josh showed up first. "Whereís James?" he asked.
"Heís coming," I answered. I realized I had forgotten to make myself a lunch, but wasnít hungry anyway, or at least not until Josh pulled out a fruit salad from his lunch box, it looked so good.
"Hey James," Josh and I said in unison when he arrived.
"Hey," he responded, and then sat on the ground next to us, pulling out a brown paper bag from his backpack. The smell of the sandwich concealed in the paper bag almost made me vomit. Josh noticed it too. We both glared at James until he answered our unasked question.
"Itís peanut butter and pickles."
"Yuck!" Josh and I both said.
"Itís actually pretty good," he tired to defend the foul thing he called a sandwich.
"How can you eat that?" I asked.
"Try it," he said, shoving it in my face. I held up my hands trying to block him. "Try it," he said again, still trying to shove it in my face.
I then noticed I was leaning on Josh (who was on the other side of me, laughing along with James) when he pushed me off my head hit the floor softly. James was over me trying to force the sandwich down my throat. Meanwhile Josh was still laughing. "Iíll take a bite if you get the hell off me," I said as his face was uncomfortably close to mine. He pulled away and handed me the sandwich. I took the smallest bit and quickly spit it out. They both laughed and I shoved James a bit.
He took his sandwich back and started eating it himself. Josh rolled his eyes and continued to eat his fruit salad. James smiled, beautifully. I found it hard to look away, but had to when he began chewing again.
His smile soon faded into a frown. I turned my head to see what caused his grimness. Both Josh and I paused as Tyler (one of Coreyís friends) walked by. "That guy is jackass," James said softly, so only we heard him.
"You just moved here, how did you know that?" Josh asked.
"I just had P.E. with him. I think his way of greeting the new kid is punching him in the stomach, almost knocking the wind out of him," he said calmly. Josh and I looked at each other sharing the same thought: James is getting shit for hanging out with us. I think James knew it too.
The next few classes went by without the mention of Tylerís name. In each period I found myself staring at James. My feelings for James began to depress me. Even if James likes guys, which Iím sure he doesnít, why the hell would he like? And if he did start to like me, which he wouldnít, would I go out with him? James got hurt for being seen with us, I canít imagine what it would be like if we were dating.
Why the hell am I even worried about this? James would never like me. Plus I donít really want to risk getting my heart broken again.
James and I walked to the bus together. We sat in the front seat. He complained about how much homework he had and I listened attentively. "My stop is next," he said after all his complaining. I looked out the window and realized he only lived about a block away from me.
"If you need any help with your homework I can probably come over, I donít live that far away," I offered.
"How about I just give you my number and you can call me when you get home," he replied nervously and took out a pen from his backpack. He took my hand and wrote his number on my palm. When the bus stopped he said goodbye and made me promise to call him.
"I promise," I shouted after him. As he got off the bus some kid sitting behind me thought it was his cue to make a rude remark.
"Is that your new boyfriend, queer? I doubt he knew my real name. I chose to ignore him, but he went on, "hey, Iím talking to you, fag." Thankfully my stop was next. I said nothing and got off quickly. I heard him slide down his window as I got off. Since my back was to him I didnít see what he was doing. The next thing I knew something wet hit my ear. I wiped it off and stared at my hand. Then I rubbed my hand on my jeans to get the saliva off.
"Weíre having leftovers again," my mom said as I walked through the door. It made me sick just thinking about the roast beef and mashed potatoes in the fridge.
"I need to make a phone call first," I said and left for my room. I set down my backpack and grabbed the phone. Someone answered on the first ring. "Hello, this is Andy, is James there?"
"Hey Andy, itís me."
"Hi," I said a bit nervously, this was the first time in years that I was on the phone and not talking to Josh.
"So about the mathÖ" he paused as if something was distracting him.
"Hold on, Iíll get my book."
"Donít bother, I donít really feel like talking about homework right now."
"So what do you want to talk about?" I asked nervously.
"I donít know, Iím hungry, I wonder when my dadís getting here. Heís getting us a pizza, but itís been like twenty minutes already. Where is he?"
"Iíd kill for pizza right now, but no, weíre having leftovers."
"Yummy, what is it?"
"Meat loaf and mashed potatoes."
"Gross, meatloaf."
"Are you a vegetarian or something?"
"Because I think itís wrong to eat meat."
"So you care about animals, but you donít care that the government is trying to control who we can and canít marry?"
"Well animals canít really defend themselves, someone has to."
"I canít believe you eat meat, thatís so gross!"
"Do you want me to stop?"
"If you want to, I donít want you to stop just because of me," he said. And just like that I was a vegetarian.
"So, uh, what are you up to?"
"Besides waiting for my dad, Iím not really doing anything. What are you up to?"
"Nothing, but I think Iím going to put on my Rage Against the Machine CD."
"Oh, that reminds me, what radio station do you listen to? I havenít found any good ones yet."
"Thatís because there arenít really any."
"That sucks, I havenít unpacked my CDs yet, and I NEED something to listen to besides my dadís music. I mean Pink Floyd is an awesome band and everything, but he plays only one of their albums, and almost nonstop."
"Well, there are two okay stations: 106.5, but it plays a lot of lame 80s metal. Then thereís the alternative station 94.9, but it plays some crappy pop/punk bands." I heard him writing, probably so he wouldnít forget the stations.
"No problem."
"I thought you were going to put a CD on, I donít hear anything, donít tell me you listen to music, with the volume that low."
"Oh, yeah." I went turned on my CD player and pushed play, Rage was already inside. Just then I heard a knock at my window. I looked up to see Joshís sad face. "James, I have to go."
"Alright, my dad finally arrived anyway. Iíll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, Iíll see you tomorrow." I quickly got off the phone. Josh had already let himself in.
"Please donít tell your parents Iím here, they might call my parents," he said in desperation.
"Why didnít you go to Andrewís, like last time?" I asked, not meaning to sound like a jerk, but knew I did anyway.
"I come to you for help, and all you can do is bring him up?! He wasnít home okay!" I then noticed his lips were bleeding.
"Your dad again?"
"Yeah, it wouldíve have been a lot worse, but luckily my sisters stopped him. They held him back and told me to go. At first I was worried he might try to hurt them, but I was already really scared. Plus there are two of them; they have a better chance than I do. And he was so drunk, Iím sure heíll pass out before he tries anything." He was rambling, assuring himself, not really talking to me.
"Iím sure theyíll be fine," I tired to comfort him, but he wasnít really listening.
"Why do you get upset at random times? Plus you have James now, thereís no need for jealousy," he said still speaking quickly, making him sound like a child asking random questions.
"Thereís nothing going on between James and I. And Iím not jealous!"
"We should keep it down so your parents donít come in," he said after glancing at the door. I nodded.
"Are you hungry?" I asked.
"Yeah, a little." I left without word, and heated up some leftovers. When I got to my room Josh snatched the plate from me and shoved the food in his mouth, obviously he was more than a little hungry.
"Arenít you going to eat?" he asked still chewing on some meatloaf
"I already ate," I lied. He eyed me suspiciously. He didnít take his eyes off me until he finished eating.
"You didnít eat lunch today either," he finally said. I looked down at the floor. Then I took his plate from him and put it in the sink. "Just because weíre not together anymore doesnít mean you canít talk to me," he said when I returned. I didnít reply. The CD was skipping so I turned my stereo off. I sat down on my bed next to Josh. Then I lied down and curled up into a ball, with my back against the wall. Josh patted my arm. I lifted my head and positioned it on his lap. He didnít push me off.
The next day Josh avoided my parents by sneaking out the window right as the bus came. I let him sit with James and I sat in the next available seat, which was unfortunately a few seats behind them. James didnít ask why Josh got on the bus with me or why Joshís lips looked swollen.
"Hey youíre in our seat," Tyler said as he got on with his sister. I looked around, there were no more seats, and one of them would have to sit with me. The bus started moving.
"I was here first," I said simply.
"Move fag, I mean it." I looked up at the bus driver and wondered why he never did anything. Tylerís sister had already found a place to sit.
"Just sit down Tyler and shut up," she said to him. He turned to her.
"Iím not sitting next to him!" He turned back to me, "Move, queer!"
"Make me," I said without thinking. James some how got there before Tyler could hit me. He held Tyler back.
"Andy, come on, just sit with us," James said as he grabbed my arm and pulled me up. I sat in the middle; James was halfway off the seat and into the aisle.
After P.E. James skipped his shower. I think he was afraid Tyler might hit him again, especially after this morning. So we sat and waited for Josh in the science wing.
After twenty or so minutes he didnít show up, so I went looking for him. I told James to stay in the science wing.
First I walked past his fourth period class, thinking he was talking to the teacher about something, but no one was there. I found him in the second place I looked: the bathroom, he was cleaning blood off his face and spitting some out as well. He looked at me then spit out a couple teeth into the small pool of blood in the sink. "Corey?" I asked.
"And Tyler, and Nick," he answered.
"Why did all three of them gang up on you, that isnít fair?"
"They were looking for you and James; I wouldnít tell them where you two were."
"Holy shit, I left James alone!" We both ran to the science wing. We found James lying on the ground, on his side, curled in a ball. Corey and his friends were already gone. I put my hand on Jamesís shoulder. "Iím sorry; Iíll never leave you alone again." James looked up at me; his face was streaked with tears and blood. Then he looked over at Josh who was spitting out some more blood.
"When are things ever fair, for people like us?" Josh said so only I heard him. James stood up so suddenly that his shoulder almost hit me in the face.
"This is such shit, it doesnít fucking make sense. Whatís wrong with them?" he muttered, pacing down the hall.
"Ignorance, inbreeding, society; take your pick," Josh answered as we fell into step with James.
"What the hell is their problem?" James asked. I wasnít sure if he was really talking to us, but I answered anyway.
"Weíre their problem. Hate, fear, disgust, whatever you want to call it, they canít take what we are."
"But Iím not gay," James said.
"I meant Josh and me," I muttered, feeling embarrassed and hurt even though he hadnít said it in an angry way.
"Your hanging out with us James," Josh said, "thatís all the evidence they need."
"But Iím the new kid, they donít even know me, how am I supposed to know anything?"
"Well now you know, so you can go find nice normal straight friends," it came out without me thinking.
"Thatís not what I meant," James said quickly, "Iím just confused. Okay?"
Josh put his hand on my arm, "Heís not used to this shit," he reminded me softly so James wouldnít hear. "Let him adjust." I wondered if he still wanted to hang out with us. He was glaring into the distance as he walked, but he didnít tell us to go away so we kept walking with him. The silence was growing uncomfortably heavy. "Youíll feel a lot better if you wash you face," I said to James.
"Oh, yeah," James mumbled, putting his hand to his blood dried face. We changed direction heading towards the restroom. We hesitated at the door. "Iím not sure we should all go in there," Josh said, "Itís too easy of a place to get jumped, no teachers or anything."
"You two could go in. Youíre already bruised up; I donít think theyíll mess with you more."
"Forget it," Josh said flatly, "we canít leave you alone, theyíre probably still looking for you."
"How about the locker room?" James suggested. We both looked at him.
"What?" we asked.
"The locker room has a sink and no one will be in there at lunch." James was right, the locker room was deserted and much more inviting than during P.E. Josh started to rinse water through his mouth, then winced and swallowed it quickly, putting his hand to his jaw.
"If you roll up a piece of gauze and put it where the tooth was itís supposed to help the blood clot," James said to Josh gingerly wetting his face with the paper towel.
"Really?" Josh asked.
James shrugged, "thatís what they do at the dentist when you get a tooth pulled."
"Hmm, I wonder if some paper towel will work," Josh said tearing off a piece from the dispenser.
The bell rang and we picked up our bags and headed out into the hall. As we headed toward our lockers James was looking nervous, "Iíve already got my stuff, so Iíll see you in class Andy," he said and walked away swiftly. He probably didnít want to hang out with us anymore.
"Iíll walk you to French," I told Josh, I hadnít done that in a while, his class was in the opposite end of the school, but I was suddenly feeling lonely.
I didnít know if James would want me to sit with him, but by the time I got to class there was no other seat. So I sat beside him, neither of us said anything. I noticed he didnít have his textbook.
I hurried to the bus as soon as seventh period got out. Corey and his friends were probably still looking for me, and I didnít want to get caught while waiting around for Josh and James.
James got on before Josh and to my relief he sat down next to me. "You still want to be seen with me?" I asked in surprise. He shrugged.
"Iím already in deep enough, itís not like it would change anything. Besides, Iíve never liked the "in" crowd anyway."
"Are you sure you want to? I mean itís not just Corey and Tyler beating up on us during lunch. Itís all the time, everywhere. Everyoneís talking about you and glaring at you. A lot of people think itís funny when youíre hurt and unhappy. And that itís their duty to make you that way. The rest are afraid to be near you, they think homosexuality is an infectious disease or something, and being near you will change them forever."
"It can be handy for getting through crowed halls though," Josh said, sitting down behind us. I knew he would show up eventually. He didnít even have to tell me he needed to come home with me, why would he want to go back to his house anyway?
"Unless there are people deliberately trying to block your way," James replied.
"At least youíre not as small as Andy and can get your way through them pretty easily," Josh responded.
"True," James replied with a grin.
"By the way Andy, it is okay that Iím coming over again right?" Josh asked sweetly.
"Of course," I answered.
"Do you think I could too? I donít want my dad to see me like this."
"Okay," I answered nervously. The thought of having James at my house excited and scared me.
When the bus arrived at my house my parents were no where in sight. I found a note on the kitchen counter.
Your dad and I went to see my sister. She just had her baby, as you know, and Uncle Larry left, again. Weíll be home as soon as possible. Call if you need anything, Aunt Leslieís number is on the fridge, or you can call my cell. There are plenty of leftovers and money in the envelope. Be good, Iíll call tonight to see how youíre doing.
There was envelope next to the note. "How much is in it?" Josh asked, making me realize that they had both been reading over my shoulder. I picked up the envelope and counted the bills.
"One hundred," I answered. "She always leaves me more than I need. Uncle Larry disappears a lot and both my parents always have to go look after my Aunt since she has a lot of emotional problems and my mom canít handle her by herself, but my Uncle always comes back in a couple days or so."
"Can I call my dad to let him know Iím here?" James asked desperately trying to change the subject and end the awkward silence.
"Of course," I answered walking to the next counter where the cordless phone was. I tossed it at him and he caught it.
"I should call home too, at least to let my sisters know where I am."
"You can use the phone in my room."
When James was finished talking to his dad I ordered a vegetarian pizza, hoping Josh wouldnít mind the lack of meat. When I hung up the phone Josh appeared.
"I ordered a pizza, its vegetarian, is that okay?" I asked him.
"So you really stopped eating meat?" James asked before Josh could answer.
"Yeah," I sort of lied, I hadnít really been eating much of anything.
"Since when do you eat vegetarian food?" Josh asked.
"Since James convinced me that eating meat is wrong," I answered, slightly smiling at James. Soon enough the door bell rang. I grabbed the envelope off the counter then answered the door.
"Hey there, thatíll be sixteen dollars," the pizza guy said. I handed him a twenty and told him to keep the changed. I set the pizza down on the coffee table in the living room so we could watch TV as we ate. Josh was already getting plates for us. "That guy was hot," he said as he set down the plates.
"Who the pizza guy?" I asked.
"Yeah, didnít you think so?"
"God, Josh, you think any guy with a cute ass is hot," I replied and then looked over at James to see if the conversation was making him uncomfortable. He seemed unfazed by ours words, and the next ones out of him shocked me.
"Iíd do him," James said casually. Josh and I both stared at him. "I donít mean literally, I just agree with Josh that he was hot." Josh and I looked at each, and then the three of us started laughing. Eventually I turned on the TV and channel searched for a while. I settled for South Park. "Can I get something to drink?" James asked.
"Sure, help yourself," I answered. I wouldíve gotten one for him, but the pizza made me feel sick and I didnít want to get up.
"Get me a drink while there," Josh shouted after him.
"What do you want?" James called from the kitchen.
"What is there?"
"Thereís Pepsi, milk, and hardÖhey Andy is it okay if we have a Mikeís?
"I guess," I answered.
"Get me one too," Josh called out. I turned to him.
"Are you sure you want to drink? It seems kind of hypercritical when youíre trying to help your sisters to stop."
"Itís just hard lemonade, plus Iím only going to drink one."
"Alright," I replied. James returned and handed both of us a bottle. Josh glanced at me, unsure if I actually was going to drink some. I chugged down a third of the bottle just to shock him. I wasnít used to the taste, but it wasnít that bad.
We kept watching TV and laughed as Kenny died. I hate to admit it, but I love this show, I wonder if thatís the alcohol talking. I finished a third bottle and felt some what strange.
After the pizza and the fourth Mikeís I wasnít feeling too well. When I got to the bathroom my vomit almost missed the toilet. It was the first time in almost a year that I threw up involuntarily. I cleaned myself off and brushed my teeth.
"Are you alright?" Josh appeared at the door, his words were slightly slurred and he was a little off balance. I wondered how many he had.
"Iím fine," I answered. He didnít seem convinced. I walked past him and went to my room to change into a vomit-free shirt. At first I didnít notice that he followed me.
"I almost forgot how good you look without a shirt on," he mumbled from the doorway. My back was to him, but I was still embarrassed.
"How many drinks have you had?" my eyes went to the bottle in his hand.
"Uhh, two, or three, and some of your parentsí vodka that James found, but that wasnít the booze talking. You really do look good," his words were slightly slurred. I had never seen Josh drunk before, it wasnít pretty. But I have to admit, I did like the attention. He was looking at me the way he used to.
I tried to walk past him, to go back to the living room, but he wouldnít move. His face was so close to mine that I could smell his breath: the smell of pizza and alcohol: gross.
"Josh, let me go watch TV," I begged. He didnít say anything; he just looked me in the eyes. He gave me a look that filled me with fear and desire.
Before I knew it we were on my bed, his tongue was in my mouth. It felt so good to kiss him again, but half the time I was thinking of James. Then I realized Josh didnít bother to close the door. He must have been thinking the same thing, because he got up. He left the room for a second. "James is passed out," he said when he returned. "I think that vodka bottle is empty," Josh said as he shut the door. Then he began to kiss me again. I was worried about James, but I guess not enough, because I stayed put, in Joshís arms.
"Donít," I said when he reached for the zipper of my pants. But he didnít listen, so I slapped his hand away.
"Sorry," he said and got up. He sat on the opposite end of the bed. We sat there awkwardly for a few minutes. I was about the leave, but he pulled me back and we started kissing again. This time I only thought of James. I opened my eyes for once and saw his face. He was standing in the doorway, looking stunned and confused. I pushed Josh off me.
"Uhh, I think Iím gonna go, I told my dad I wasnít going to be here long," he said nervously. Then he stumbled away. When he was out of sight I heard him fall on the floor and yell, "Shit!" So both Josh and I got up.
We helped James to his feet and got him to the couch. "Fuck, man, my dad will get pissed if he knows Iíve been drinking again," James stammered. I got him a glass of water.
"Just stay here," I said while offering him the glass.
"Iíll probably have to. I didnít really tell me dad I would be home soon."
Josh started picking up all the bottles, I guess out of habit. I picked up our plates and the empty pizza box.
"Would you like some more water?" I asked when I returned to the living room. He nodded and handed me his glass. He drank it quickly, set it on the coffee table in front of him, and then fell asleep. I got a blanket for him. As I placed the blanket on him I stared at him for a few seconds. He was a peaceful sleeper. Josh appeared and caught me staring at him,
"Never mind," Josh said and turned away. The phone rang and I immediately new it was my mom. I picked it up after the second ring.
"Hi honey. Are you alright? Iím sorry we had to leave suddenly but your Aunt Leslie needed us."
"Donít worry about it, Iím fine. Josh and James are over, is that alright?"
"Thatís fine sweetie," she answered, without bothering to ask who James was. "Andy, honey I have to go now your aunt needs me."
"Okay, bye mom."
"Bye, goodnight. I love you."
"Love you too, mom." I hung up the phone. Josh was in the kitchen with me.
"Andy, I, uhhÖI donít want to come between you and James." I gave him a confused look. "I know you like him, and I know he likes you too. And to be honest, the whole time we were kissing I was thinking about Andrew."

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