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I fell asleep and didn't even know I'd done it until I found myself back in that unsettling brick lined tunnel. It wasn't the same this time around, though. It was completely thrashed. Large and small holes where bricks had been ripped from the walls were all over the place. The walkway was lined with some of the removed bricks, while those that remained in the wall were so cracked and bruised that they looked like they would go at any minute.
My concern wasn't about the status of the bricked corridor for long. It quickly became fixed on the door. The old one that had been chained up and locked up before. Blasted open now. Barely hanging on its hinges.
Walking toward the bastard was not my idea, but something
was making me do it. That bone marrow chilling cold seemed to be
pouring out of the door, making the air colder and colder as I got closer.
I tried to look inside to see to see if I could see anything, but the room
was pitch black to the next power.
"Hello?" I called, like an idiot.
"Hello." another voice responded, making me back away from the door.
From the dark depths of the room emerged another
person. It was a young man who looked like he was around sixteen
or so. The sparse black hairs growing on his upper lip hinted at
that. He stood before the door and flashed a smile at me.
"Long time no see, buddy." he said. "Glad you could make it."
"What's going on?" I asked him.
"I couldn't just leave without telling you thanks."
I gave the young man a quick once over, unable
to recall ever seeing him before.
"Do I know you?" I asked him.
"I'd say you do." he answered simply.
"From where? And thanks for what?"
"For letting me out, of course. You see I'm the skeleton you tried to lock away in the closet."
When he said the word "skeleton" his clothes
and flesh exploded off his body and shot backward into the darkness behind
him, leaving behind a grotesque skeleton. By the end of the sentence
the skeleton began stalking toward me. I tried to get away, but my
legs wouldn't listen. I could only stand there, scared as hell, as
the sinister thing came at me.
"It's too bad I found the key, huh?" it hissed in a raspy voice, the same one that had come from the other side of the door. The one begging to be let out of the now destroyed door. "Little Jacky tried to forget who he really is. Now, he's gonna remember!"
It reached its foul hand out to me and placed its palm on my forehead. A powerful electric shock sensation shot through me and there was a bright flash of light. And then I woke up.
I was still in the front room in the same position as before. The light was still on and the digital clock on the VCR read 3:00 a.m. I swear that I could still feel the tingling sensation from the shock coursing through my body, and the left behind residual sensation from the bony palm that had been placed against my forehead. That wasn't all I could feel though. Something was awake inside my head. It stuck out just enough to catch my attention and bring me to it. Once I was at it I knew what it was. It was the blank spot, the one that wouldn't let me figure it out during my shower. Now it wasn't so blank anymore. A memory was there.
I sat there with my back against the front of the couch for a moment, going over the recovered memory in my head. It's funny how the mind can do things like that, you know? Make a woman forget the horrible pain of childbirth, or a child forget the pain of abuse from the parent(s) they love. It's like a defense mechanism that just tries to do what's best for the subject it's defending. Like all things, though, it sometimes can glitch and that forgotten thing can be remembered in full. That was my case. Because this memory had been locked away so far in the back of my mind that I didn't even know it was there.
The recovered memory was my missing link. It caused things that had happened to make perfect sense. It gave me the answers I had been searching for. And I didn't like them. The truth that was being revealed to me...it couldn't be the truth. It couldn't.
I got up and went into the kitchen to try and clean up the crusty slimy mess that was still all over my pubic region. I thought hard while I used some dry paper towels to get rid of the mess, hoping I could just reach a simple resolution. That wasn't about to happen, though. This was way too deep. Not even the most logical, smartest, or intelligent person in the world could come to terms with something like this overnight.
When I was about as dry and clean as I could get, I thought about Mateo. God, I'd probably jacked him up something awful mentally with doing what we'd done and then sending him away like I'd made the worst mistake in my life. Hopefully he would be in the bedroom. If he had run away as a result of me, I knew I would never let myself hear the end of it
I left the kitchen and headed for the hallway. The door to my room was shut. That was a good sign since I didn't remember closing it. I walked up to it and leaned my head as quietly as I could against it to see if I could hear anything. I couldn't. I took a deep breath, gathered myself, opened the door, and went inside.
Mateo was still there sitting on the edge of my bed
and looking directly at me. He was fully dressed and had his overnight
sports bag draped over his shoulder. He stood as I entered
"What's going on?" I asked, utterly clueless.
"What does it look like?" he answered, sounding angry. The way he sounded during our first homework sessions together.
I looked at his bag and then at him.
"You can't just leave."
"And who's gonna stop me?"
I nodded a couple of times.
"Okay. Where do you think you're gonna go?"
He shrugged again.
"Don't know and I don't see why you even care."
I was loosing him with each question that went
between us. He was closing up on me all over again. If I didn't
try to patch things up now we were going to be right back where we were
the first day we met.
"Mateo..." I started, but he held up his hand to silence me.
"This is why I don't let people get close to me, Jack. This is why I didn't want you to help me or start liking me. It's easier to keep my little secret that way. But...it's not a secret to you no more is it?"
Finally the answer to the question asked by
myself in the shower when I concluded that he was hiding something from
me. I knew it had to be something serious, but I had no idea this
was what it was going to be.
"I'm sorry I did what I did." he apologized. "Maybe you would've liked it better if I didn't have this between my legs." he indicated what "this" was by grabbing his crotch.
He started to walk for the bedroom door and
I stepped back into the doorway to stop him.
"You're not leaving, Mateo." I told him.
Looking me directly in the eye, he walked up
on me until we were chest to chest.
"Wanna bet?" he challenged me.
I understood he was upset, why he was upset,
and felt he had every reason to be. But he'd pushed me away before
with the whole "I got the biggest balls in the world" routine. He
just didn't know that tonight I was going to show him that mine were bigger.
In that deepened voice that comes over me whenever I get aggravated or
stern I said,
"I'm not in to hitting people, especially you. But please believe that I will knock you flat on your ass if you don't sit down on that bed. We are going deal with this."
For a minute I thought I was going to have to do it because he didn't budge. He turned finally away from me, snatched the strap of his bag from around his shoulder off, threw the whole bag over toward my dresser drawers and sat down on the bed with as much attitude as he could muster up. That foul grimace he had shown me before was all over his face.
Attitude or not, he was staying and that let me know
he was giving me a chance to do what I needed to do. I remained standing
in the doorway, cleared my throat, and got ready to tell him what I needed
"I have something I need to tell you."
"Which means I should listen, right?" he shot.
"Do want you want with it. It's your call."
I paused to see if he had anything else to say.
When he didn't respond I started up again.
"I think I was about your age when me and some friends went to our first house party. We had the time of our lives and met a lot of cool people. I wound up meeting a guy named Cody. From the moment we met it was like we had this...this connection, you know, even though he was two years older than me. Anyway, me and him got to be good friends and we hung out a lot together."
I had to stop and prepare myself for what I
was about to say out loud. Jeez, I had just become re-aware of all
this and hadn't even had sufficient time to deal with it myself and already
I was telling someone about it. But this was going to come out whether
I wanted it to or not. Because now that I knew he secret; he needed
to know mine. And in my mind I needed to hear myself say it.
"Things started to change after awhile." I went on. "I started liking Cody in a way I had never liked anybody before. In a way I knew I shouldn't like him. I even started thinking about him in ways I knew I shouldn't. Then one night, we were sitting on the roof of his house outside his bedroom window just chilling out. He looked over at me and I looked over at him and BAM! At that moment I knew he felt the exact same way about me. And we kissed."
The look on Mateo's face to that revelation
could've rewritten the definition for shock. He never saw something
like that coming.
"From that moment forward I knew that my life was never going to be the same. I was scared at first, because I had been brought up under the belief that same sex stuff was a big no-no. But Cody helped me deal. He helped me understand and not be afraid of what was happening. He made me feel like I'd never felt before. I loved him."
If that was the hard part, what was about to
come next needed a new word to describe it. It took me three tries
before I was even able to get started again.
"About three weeks after we'd started being with each other, me him and my friends went to another party. Me and him went into a room and we started getting a little touchy-feely. But I...got scared and told him that I wasn't ready to go all the way. I thought he was cool with it. He went and got us some drinks and came back to the room and said we could just chill. A little while later, I started feeling funny. It was like the room was spinning and I couldn't stop it. The more the room started to spin, the more incoherent I got. And then..."
I don't know where it all came from, but one second
I was okay, and the next second it was like POW!!! Emotions like
you wouldn't believe came rushing over me with such intensity that I wasn't
ready to handle them all. I almost collapsed right there on the spot.
Mateo was off the bed and at my side in the blink of an eye to catch me from falling.
"It's okay. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to." he tried to comfort me, sounding seriously concerned.
Attempting to gather myself was not working at all.
I was coming undone faster than I could put myself back together.
I was starting to tremble. I think I was even starting to cry.
"No...no." my voice was shaking. "You have to...to know this...I have to say...it."
It took every last drop of energy in me to get on
with what I had to say. But I had to say it before I was no good.
"He..." I started, and must've repeated it nearly twenty times before, "He...raped me. Right there in that room with everybody just on the other side of the door."
The anger that took over from that point was probably
the only thing that helped me keep it together enough to finish.
"That motherfucker raped me like I was the best piece of ass he'd ever had. I...I couldn't stop him. I should've, but I...I couldn't."
And that folks was the end of Jack the twenty-three year old man. In that instant I was the fifteen-year-old boy I was on that night. The violated, broken, and utterly terrified one who was living the worst night of his life all over again.
I caved after that. Went down in flames. I couldn't even hold on. I didn't want Mateo to see me like this. I had to be the strong one, if not for me then for him. But when emotions need to get out, stopping them is not an option.
I was down for awhile, not even sure if I was going to be able to get back up again. It was like the shower moment between me and Mateo, only reversed and a lot more intense. I just remember Mateo telling me that there was nothing I could've done and that it wasn't my fault it happened. He told me not to be afraid to let go. That he would be there catch me.
* * * * * *
I woke up with a start, not knowing for a second
where I was. When I recognized my bedroom I settled back down and
realized that my head was resting in Mateo's lap. His hand was lying
lazily over my shoulder and the other was on his knee. I looked up at him
and saw that he was fast asleep.
It may sound odd but as I lay there against him, I felt so safe. I felt like nothing in the world could hurt me. Like I was protected. Anything that was coming at me would have to go through him first.
I lay against him until I felt him shift and attempt
to readjust his position. Thinking he was still asleep, I glanced
upward again and saw he was awake. When he realized that I was awake,
that one of a kind smile of his spread across his face.
"Hey." he greeted me.
"Hey." I replied, smiling back. "Was I here all night?"
"Most of it I guess. I don't really remember."
"I better get up. I've probably cut off all circulation to your legs."
"Feels like it. But I don't care."
We rearranged ourselves so that we were sitting
with our backs against the bed. I looked over at him and put my arm
"Thank you." I told him. "For catching me when I fell."
He snuggled in closer to me.
"You caught me when I was falling. I had to have your back just like you've got mine."
It warmed my heart to hear him say that.
I let him know it.
"I just want to say I'm sorry...for last night, Jack." he said to me. "It's just...I never did nothing like that before. I-I couldn't stop myself. If I would've known..."
"But you didn't and it's not your fault. So don't apologize." there was no need to let him take responsibility for what Cody had done to me.
"I just...I just can't believe he did that to you. That is one fucked up son of a bitch.
"Neither could...well, can I."
"Did you ever tell the police?"
I shook my head shamefully.
"No. Too scared. I figured my parents and everyone else would find out what I was really all about, and life was already tough enough without having to deal with that."
"I can't say I don't know where you're coming from." he agreed with me.
"The interesting thing is that he never showed his face in town again. It was like the punk completely vanished."
"He'll get his one day. What goes around comes back around."
"I'm with you on that."
A moment of silence passed between us, both
of us just enjoying the closeness of one another, before he broke it.
"I guess this means you don't think I'm a freak?" he asked sincerely.
"I never even thought it. But if you want to go that route, I guess it takes one to know one, huh?"
I looked down at him and smiled. He smiled
"Yeah. I guess so."
"I let society screw with my head, Mateo. So much that I hid myself from myself. People fear anything that doesn't fit under their neat description of normal, be it people like us, or people who have disfigurements or oddly placed body piercings. There only reaction is to retaliate because they don't understand and they're afraid."
"I guess I never thought of it like that."
"Yeah, well I only wish that I would've thought like that sooner. But it was all just too much for me at the time."
"You just did what you thought was best. You can't knock yourself because of that."
That actually made me feel a little bit better.
"Guess I never thought of it like that." I imitated him.
I sighed heavily and rubbed my itching eye.
"I'm so sorry for freaking out on you last night. It's just that what I felt for you. What we did. It scared the hell out of me and I didn't know how to deal. I shouldn't have gone off on you like that."
"That's okay, I totally understand. But we're cool now, right?"
"Never been cooler."
That got him to smile for me again, before
and more passive expression came to his face.
"So...I guess I don't need to say how I feel about you, right?" he said with unsureness.
"Oh, I think I a got a clue." I used my humor to ease the tension of the subject for both him and me.
"...Is there...you know, any chance you might...you know?"
"Yeah, I know. And yes, I do. That's the problem."
He sat up from against me.
"We've got to look at this realistically. I'm 23, you're 15."
"You know what I'm getting at."
"Aw, that's bullshit, Jack. I mean, it's okay for a 33-year-old woman to hook up with a 17-year-old guy, and that's like 16 years apart. Then, it's okay for the same thing to happen with a 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl. But it's not okay for a 15-year-old guy to be with a 23-year-old guy? That's not even ten years apart."
He was looking at the situation totally in
another way. I was still stuck on the fact that both of us were guys.
He was long past that. Perhaps it was finally time for me to get
past it to. That had sort of been the point of all the stuff that
"We also have to take into account that you've been through a lot of stuff. You're vulnerable right now and I don't want to use that to take advantage of you." I stated another reason.
He burst out laughing.
"Vulnerable? Jack, I been vulnerable since sperm started shooting out of my dick. And as for taking advantage of me, if I didn't want you touching me or being close to me, you wouldn't.
Two for him, zero for me.
"But do you really know what it means to like somebody like this..."
"Don't let the fact that I'm 15 fool you into thinking I'm stupid. I know I like you, Jack. Very much. Nobody ever came into my life and done the things for me that you have. Nobody ever made me feel like you make me feel, or treated me like you do. Nobody's ever gotten into me like you and I kinda want you to stay there."
Strike three! I was out!
"Well. It sounds like you got all the bases covered." I was out of excuses.
"So what happens now?"
"I really don't know. I'm a stranger to all this myself. Guess we just play it by ear and see what happens?"
"Sure. I'm cool with that."
I made up my mind at that moment to just throw
everything away society had crammed down my throat. I wasn't going
to let what Cody did to me keep me from being me. From my point of
view that was like saying he'd won if I continued to keep that part of
me locked up inside. And as a man who prided himself on being true
to himself and to others, I felt I would be going back on all that if I
refused myself again.
"Good." I smiled. "I'm cool with that too."
We stayed there like that against my bed for I don't know how long just talking about things. He revealed to me that it was after the basketball game when he realized that he was starting to like me. That was one of the reasons that led to him invading on me in the shower. He was already under the assumption that he was going to be staying with me until his mother was let free, and was afraid that he wouldn't be able to hide his feelings. So he was trying to get me mad at him so that I would send him away.
I told him that my initial liking for him probably
started around the same time, but that I didn't fully realize it until
the previous weekend when I'd shown him how to work the shower.
"Yeah...I'm sorry about that." a bit of shame was in his voice.
"Sorry for what?" I couldn't see a reason for him to be.
"I kinda did it on purpose. Undressing in front of you. I guess I was just trying to see if I had a chance with you."
The little sneak! He'd known what he was doing
the whole time!
"So you were intentionally trying to seduce me?" I rephrased.
The "I just realized I've been had" look on
my face was just a joke, but he took me seriously and remarked,
"I said sorry. Come on, Jack. It had been a long time since I'd jacked off. I was horny, and the wrong head was doing the thinking. Don't tell me that never happened to you before."
I kept the look for awhile longer before I
smiled and shoved him away from me playfully.
"More times than I can count. You just don't know that you almost got me."
"The bathroom door was open just a crack when you were getting out of the shower and I..."
Oh my lord, was I really about to tell him
"I really wanted to look."
He looked slightly ashamed again as he told me,
"I was hoping you sorta would."
"It doesn't take a rocket science to know that that mirror reflects things like it does."
This boy had been setting me up from the get
go! I punched him lightly in his shoulder.
"You little demon!"
He laughed and defended himself.
"Hey, I wasn't myself!"
I don't know why I felt like I had to...actually,
yes I did. It was going to happen sooner or later and I was really
planning for sooner. Might as well take it on while both our spirits
"You didn't seem like yourself last night either." I remarked.
He looked me up and down twice.
"Neither did you."
"Yeah, well when you've got as many years of pent up emotions like I did, you sort of go animalistic."
"I know that. I didn't know what I was doing. I was scared as hell!"
"Yeah. I thought your were going to beat my ass for sure when I told you you were hard and then when I rubbed mine on yours. I almost pissed all over myself!"
"I never would've thought you were scared. See man, that's one of the things I admire so much about you. I wish I had an ounce of your courage."
"And I wish I could be strong like you. You know, mentally. It's like you're unbreakable. Nothing or nobody gets to you, no matter what."
"Well with my strength and your courage, we'll be a force to be reckoned with, huh?"
"You better believe it."
We kept the conversation going for a short time before I figured I should take a shower. I had just done enough to clean myself up the night before so that I didn't feel all nasty. My skin was starting to itch around that area and it was time to apply some soap and water to it.
While I was in the shower, Mateo asked me if he could come in to pee. He thought he was going to be able to hold it but he was about two seconds from involuntarily letting loose. The shower glass doors were the kind that kept the image of the person on either side distorted, so he couldn't really see me and I couldn't really see him.
As he drained what seemed like a gallon of urine into the bowel, he brought up concerns that had bothered him since he'd found out he wasn't straight. The first was about being an abomination to God as far as religious beliefs went. He thought it odd that people of religion were the first ones to say that God created everything and that he makes no mistakes, but that the moment a person comes out and says they're not straight then all of a sudden that's not God's doing. That's the person who's making that decision. That person is foul, evil, dirty, and all those other words. And as an extension to that, he wondered if he wasn't straight because he believed that he wasn't and not because he really was. People said it was a choice.
My take on the people thinking it was a choice to not be straight was that it was a bunch of crap. I mean how stupid was that? A person doesn't just wake up one day and say: "Hey, I'm feeling kinda gay today." and that's where it starts. What makes a straight person straight is the same thing that makes a person not straight. It's like that from day one. There was no choice involved.
As for the God situation, I told him we weren't mistakes. Neither of us came popping out the ass end of a jackal with the numbers 666 on the backs of our heads, so no we weren't evil. I hadn't exactly read the bible, so I wasn't too sure, but I said that it was a sin for people to hate on us just because we weren't like them. They were supposed to love anything and everything because all of us are God's creatures, regardless of sexual orientation. And as far as I was concerned, it was just people hiding behind their religion, or adopting a certain part of it to back them in their own personal beliefs. The bible says a lot of other things too on how a person of religion should live their life. Funny. Because the majority of religious people don't even adopt those things into their lives.
My takes on the situations made sense to him and made him feel better about them and about himself. I told him they were good questions and that I was sure they'd have come up in my head sooner or later.
Once he was gone and I was alone, I started thinking
about something else. My family. How were they going to react
when they found out? Were they going to treat me the same way?
Were my male cousins going to be afraid to come around me now because they
thought I might start checking them out?
As close as I was to my family, I knew this was something I wasn't ready to just up and tell them about. They weren't ready and I knew I sure wasn't. I still needed time to feel things out.
That was my only actual concern. I didn't care
what anybody else thought about it. It wasn't like it was any of
their business anyway. And it wasn't like I had a sign over me that
said: "Queer down here" With an arrow pointing at me.
My mind went back to what I'd said before to Mateo: "With my strength and your courage, we'll be a force to be reckoned with, huh?" He had answered it best with: "You better believe it." Maybe I was more prepared to handle this than I thought.
* * * * * *