There's a jittery, nervous, tremble involved in the waiting. This intense level of anticipation in not knowing exactly how your life is going to turn the second your biggest secret is revealed to the world around you. It's not so much the exposure, but the inevitable aftermath to follow it. You try to be optimistic about it all, but the truth is...you don't know WHAT to expect once the shit hits the fan. I don't get it, this felt like such a liberating opportunity last night....what happened?
I've never faced anything this 'damaging' before. And because of that, I have no idea whether or not I'll be able to deal with the repercussions of it. I tossed and turned in my bed that night, unable to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time for fear that my dreams would entertain the worst of my fears and anxieties about having Chris tell everyone that I was gay. Despite our connection....he really didn't have anything to lose now. And me? I could lose everything. And so could Tanner. I might have ruined both of our lives tonight. And that alone made me ache with so much guilt, doubt, and utter panic, that I was forced to curl up into a tight ball and 'take it'.
Having people know might set me free...but not without a LOT of growing pains. The life I've been living up to this point...would be over. And I just don't know how to start all over again from scratch. Nor do I know how I could be cruel enough to ask Tanner to do the same.
I heard the front door open, and knew that my mom was coming home late from work again. From the stifled grunts that I heard coming from the living room as she took off her shoes, I take it that her shift at the diner was more brutal than usual. There was some rustling in the kitchen, where she probably brought home something for me to snack on tomorrow for lunch..and then I heard her footsteps approaching my bedroom door. I instantly closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep as I heard the door open slowly. No matter how exhausted she was, or how late she came home, she always made it a point to come in and check on me. I never really understood why. Was it to make sure that I was alright? Or...to make sure that I was in the house? Who knows? All I knew was that she would open my door, stare at me for a few seconds, and close it back, before she got off of her feet for the night. It was a strange activity as far as I was concerned...but somewhat comforting at the same time.
I heard the TV come on in the living room, and it sounded like she opened up a bag of potato chips. She works sooooo hard sometimes. I just wish she didn't have to work so hard. I don't know what made me do it, or what sudden desire I had to be close to her, but I put on a t-shirt and some pajama bottoms...and went out to join her.
She looked up at me as I walked into the room and said, "Hey, honey. What are you still doing up?" I leaned over the back of the sofa and gave her a kiss on the cheek, before hugging her around the neck and resting my chin on her shoulder.
"I dunno...I couldn't sleep."
She smiled to herself. "uh-huh...you heard me open the bag of chips, didn't ya?"
"Hehehe, yeah. Maybe that's part of it too." I grinned.
"Yeah, well...there should be some spinach dip left in the fridge if you wanna share."
"Awesome." I went to the kitchen and fished around for the small tub of dip, and came back to sit on the couch next to her. I put my feet up under me and snuggled up close, resting my head on her shoulder as she was forced to put an arm around me.
"Hehehe, you're an affectionate one tonight." She tenderly kissed the top of my head and rubbed her fingers through my hair a few times. "You ok?"
"No reason. Just making sure. You teenagers go from, 'mommy hold me' to 'please don't embarrass me' so fast, I never know what to expect."
"I never said you embarrassed you me..." I giggled.
"Sometimes you don't have to, your face says it all." She smiled. "Here, eat. Try not to get any crumbs on the couch."
We shared a few crunches, the ice cold dip giving every bite some extra flavor. It just felt so good, being close like this. God knows how much longer I'm going to be able to stuff like this with her. Or...if she'll even be comfortable doing this once she...finds out about me.
"So where's your partner in crime? I thought you and Joel were enjoying being inseparable again?" She asked me, and I sighed.
"He's probably still mad at me. We haven't been getting along so great the past few days." I told her.
"Ahh, I see." She had another chip, and rubbed my head some more. It was so soothing the way she did it. "Well, you know, they say there's no greater test for any friendship than sharing the same living space. I'm sure you guys will work it out though."
"Right." I ate some more, and looked ahead at the TV to see what she was watching. "What is this?"
"I'm pretty sure it's 'Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers'."
"Why is it in black and white?"
"It's a black and white movie. They DID make those at one time, you know?"
"No, I mean, I saw the old one before. Isn't that one guy in it? You know, Kiefer Sutherland's dad?"
"That was the 70's version. This is the original." She told me.
"There's an even OLDER one? Omigod!" I felt a swat on the top of my head as she grinned at me.
"Everything looks 'old' to a fourteen year old, I'm sure. But I'll have you know that this is considered a 'classic'. Something they don't really make any more."
"The Matrix...is a classic." I said, correcting her.
"Hehehe, that's your answer for everything. Fine, I'll give you that one." She hugged me close again, and just being there seemed to alleviate so much stress. There's nothing like a mother's embrace to give you peace of mind.
"Why do they keep remaking it all the time? Isn't it the same movie?" I asked, scooping up some more dip onto another chip.
"Well...the theme is always relevant. No matter what generation it is. I mean, you get everyone to look the same, act the same, dress the same, think the same...you'd think it would be paradise. Nice little robots who live well and never cause trouble. But that's just not the way the world works." She said. "Sometimes, it's a good thing to be a little different. Sometimes you've just got to be yourself, and trust that it's good enough for people to accept you as you are. Even when people desperately want you to be someone else." She said. "Something about that story appeals to a part of everybody, I think." She ate some more, and...with a slight hesitation, I reached up and kissed her on the cheek again, giving her a rather emotional squeeze. "Alright, that's TWO kisses and a hug in the same night. Who are you, and what have you done with my son, Derrick?"
"I'm fine. You just...said the right thing at the right time. That's all." I smiled, and cuddled back up to her again as she shook off the confusion of my statement and watched the movie with me.
Once we finished off the dip, which didn't take long, as half of it was already gone when we started, she rolled up the bag of chips and set it down on the side of the sofa. And five minutes later, she started to nod. I know she wanted to watch the whole movie with me, but she couldn't keep her eyes open. Not even for a few seconds. Occasionally, I'd slightly change my position, and from her half conscious state, her hand would move up to my blond hair again and tussle it gently as she held me close to her side. And then, her breathing would deepen, and she'd drift right back off to sleep again.
This is what I'm going to miss. This is one of the many things that's going to change when I tell her the truth. It's not like I think that things will be BAD when she finds out I'm gay...just....different. Different enough that when I go to hug her...I'm going to feel the subtle contrast between that and the way she hugs me now. And I'm going to really long for the kind of hugs she gives me now. Where will they go? How will they change? Will they be worse? More remote? More alien? Will she hold me for as long as she does now? Or will our loving hugs turn into some kind of obligated display of fake affection? Something we do to keep up the appearance that everything is the same as it used to be? Sometimes...it's questions like this that make me wish I could stay hidden in the closet forever. God, it would be so much easier if it didn't matter.
I waited until the movie was over, pretending that I didn't even notice that my mom had slept through 90% of it. And she yawned while telling me to go to bed and get some rest. She went to bed right after me, and despite all of that turbulent anxiety that was keeping me awake before...being next to her on that couch gave me enough comfort to drift off as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was thankful for that.
The next morning, or should I say...early afternoon, I woke up to an unmerciful blaze of Saturday sunlight pouring in through my bedroom window. I literally had to toss the covers up over my head to try to dull the glare of it enough to keep it from blinding me. Jesus! But...as I lay there, hiding from the light of day...my mind began its daily focus. And the first thing I thought of was...
How am I going to explain things to Tanner?
He's definitely involved in all of this. And if we're both going to be outed at school...he should know about it ahead of time. Which means...I'm gonna have to explain what happened over at Chris' house. I'm gonna have to tell him that I didn't go through with it, and that I pretty much fucked things up for the both of us. And...I just hope he'll take it...'well'
I felt that ache returning to my stomach again as the tension built up in me all over again. And I managed to get out of bed after twisting and turning over it for a few minutes more.
I cleaned up a bit, and my mom made some quick cheeseburgers for lunch. She was already dressed for work, and almost ready to go. She was cooking a batch of frozen French fries that she must have gotten from work, and walked over to give me a kiss when she saw me enter the kitchen. "Honey, do something with your hair. You look like you just woke up."
"I did just wake up."
"Here you go. Eat up. You know how to finish off the fries, right?" She said, almost hurrying.
"Yeah, I got it." I said, sleepily.
"Alright. I'm sorry, but I've gotta get out of here. There's some Salisbury steak in the freezer, I taped the instructions on the fridge. Cook it SLOW, ok? And keep an eye on it." She wiped her hands off and grabbed her car keys. "I'll see you later, babe. Be good."
But as she was walking for the door, I stopped her. "Mom?" She turned to look at me, waiting for me to say what I needed to say. But as horrifying thoughts of Chris and his friends showing up at her job tonight...destroying her image of me in ways that I couldn't even imagine...my words, even my THOUGHTS...got caught up in the back of my throat. What if this is the last time we're ever able to see each other this way? What if..when she comes home tonight...everything has changed?
"What is it, baby? I've gotta go." She asked.
I looked down at the floor, as though avoiding her trusting eyes would somehow make this easier to say. My hands were shaking, my breath was short, and all of a sudden, I felt if I opened my mouth to say anything at ALL, I'd literally PASS OUT! I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I should have told her first. I should be brave enough to beat Chris to the punch...but her eyes...I could say the words...not to those eyes. "I'm sorry. Go ahead. It's nothing."
She looked concerned, and asked me, "You sure?" I nodded silently, but she walked towards me and put her purse and car keys down on the kitchen table. "Derrick? Honey, talk to me. What's wrong?"
"It's ok, Mom. Really. Go...."
"I will CALL them and tell them I'll be late if I have to. I'll get Tina to work for me if it's important..."
"It's not. Ok? Really. Go to work I'll see you when you get home, k?" I told her, and she almost didn't want to leave. The look of worry on her face...it intimidated me to no end. The pressure was making it hard to breathe, and all of my courage shrank to the size of a tic tac.
She put her hands on my both of my shoulders, "Derrick...look at me." I didn't at first, but she insisted. "Hey...c'mon, I mean it. Look at me." I glanced up, and it was like my heart was about to explode from the stress of it all. "Anytime you want to talk to me, about anything...I'm HERE. You understand me?"
"Sighhh...I know, Mom..."
"No, no, you don't know. I'm not just wasting wind here, ok?" She told me, and then she gave me a kiss. "No matter what's going on, no matter what my life looks like...YOU come first. Alright? Always. You come first before ANYTHING else, and don't you forget it."
"Thanks." I said, smiling a bit to let her know that the message was received, loud and clear. "Now go. There's no way they could run that place without you." Thankfully, that got her to smile.
"You be good, Derrick. Be a KID! Leave the worrying and the stressing out to me, alright? You take care of me, I take care of you. And together we can beat anything, you know that, right?"
"Forever and always." I said, doing my best to work up a smile, if for no other reason than to give her some comfort as she ran out of the door.
She picked up her purse and keys again. "Take those fries up and turn off the grease. Remember to run..."
"...Run hot water for a few minutes after pouring it down the drain. Yeah, I remember." I said, and she hurried out of the front door to go to work. Shit...this particular conversation is never going to be an easy one, is it?
I had some lunch, still trembling a bit as I planned to take the bus out to Tanner's house and break the news to him. I couldn't help but feel like shit about it all, but I had to tell him. There's no way around that now.
The entire ride out to Tanner's was one of reflection. It was as if I was trying to take inventory of all the things I would no longer enjoy, being out of the closet. Little things, but things that mattered to me. Naturally, the kids at school would have a field day with the idea. They probably wouldn't give it to Tanner too badly, but they'd ROAST me on a daily basis. I was sure of it. Like Chris said, they were just waiting for a legitimate reason to totally make me an outcast anyway. They'd be overjoyed to have an actual reason to hate me for a change. But it wasn't really me that I was worried about. I mean, at the very worst...I'd have to deal with another level of teasing than the one I'm already used to. I'd like to think that I've built a pretty thick skin against their petty tortures at this point. But...poor Tanner. He's not used to people talking about him behind his back. A few harmless comments from Joel was enough to make him feel bad. He's practically a 'golden boy' at our school. How is HE going to react to whispers and ridicule? It crossed my mind, ever so briefly, that he might end up resenting me for bringing this garbage into his life. I mean....love is love...but who could forgive something like that? Seriously.
The closer I got to his house, the more I worried myself into a frenzy. I had to close my eyes and count backwards from ten just to keep my breathing normal. And when I got to Tanner's front gate...I was visibly trembling from head to toe.
"Derrick, what's going on man?" Said the man at the gate.
"Hey...." I mumbled. "Is...um....is Tanner, home?" Please say no, please say no, please?
"Sure, he's here. Go on in, I'll buzz the house and tell him you're on your way." He said. Shit. Sighhhh....just as well. I might as well get this over with before tomorrow.
I took the walk from the gate to the house, and Tanner was standing there at the door as I approached the front steps. "Hey cutie." He said, giving me a hug the second I was close enough. "Why didn't you call me first? I would have come to pick you up or something."
"I....I just figured....I'd come by, that's all." I said, nervously trying to hide my sweaty palms behind my back.
"What's the matter? Are you ok?" He asked.
"Tanner....." How do I even BEGIN? "...Tanner, we have to talk....about something."
"Something BAD?" He asked.
"Um...yeah...maybe." I told him. "Can we...can we talk in your basement or something?"
Tanner's worried eyes met mine, and said, "Yeah. Definitely. Come on down with me." He led me through his house, and as we got to the stairs leading into his basement, I caught a glimpse of his mother standing by the window on the phone. She turned and gave me...'that look'. God, she could really level you with her bitchy expression when she wanted to. God only KNOWS how bad it's gonna get when she finds out that me and Tanner are boyfriends! That's going to magnify her disgust for me by a MILLION! I'm sure of it!
It was a brief crossing of paths, but I let my stupid 'home training' force me into giving her a greeting anyway when I walked past her. Instead of returning my wave and semi-smile...she sneered a bit, and with a roll of her eyes, said, "I'm on the phone." Sighhh...whatever. She always treated me like some kind of dirty cockroach in her pristine house, but Tanner was able to easily bypass her every insult and dirty look without incident. Maybe he was just used to it, and refused to care anymore. But I wasn't. Normally, I wouldn't give a damn...but it was her influence in boyfriend's life that made it hurt worse. Because at the end of the day, if she ever just put her foot down and said, 'no more'...what could we really do to get around that? "Tanner...you should be getting ready to 'go' soon. I need you to look presentable for..."
But Tanner completely ignored her as always, shutting the door in her face as he led me downstairs. I swear, hehehe, his ability to totally disregard his own mother for my benefit was about as flattering as anything that I could imagine. Normally, I'd feel bad for coming between somebody and their own parents. But in Tanner's case, his mom was a total BITCH, and he was well aware of that fact! I never said it, he never disputed it, and somehow the silent message was conveyed between us whenever necessary. I guess, maybe, that was all I needed to feel comfortable here. That and Tanner's kiss...which he graced me with as soon as we reached the bottom of the steps.
God....his lips felt good against mine. Every kiss was a blessing, and it always kept me thirsty for more. I only wish that I could have been here on happier circumstances.
"Tanner...Tanner, wait, ok? Really...this is important." He stopped kissing my lips, and looked me in the eye. "You might...wanna sit down for this, ok?"
He didn't want to at first, but I gave him a nod, and he decided to take me up on the offer. So he took me by the hand, and sat down on the sofa, making sure that I had room to sit down beside him. I didn't take it though...I thought it was best that I remained standing for this.
There was no easy way to say what I had to say, so the direct approach was needed. Here goes nothing. "It's Chris....he's talking about telling everybody about....'us'." I said.
Tanner seemed to turn white all of a sudden, and his eyes dropped as he took in a deep breath and held it. "So.....he's just gonna...say it? He's gonna expose us?"
"Yeah. I think he is. On Monday morning." I wish that I had a way to comfort Tanner in all of this, but I really didn't. I could hardly comfort myself at this point. "I did everything I could to reason with him and get him to back off of us, but...he just...he won't listen."
There was a moment of silence, where Tanner began to visibly tremble right in front of my eyes. The guilt factor tripled instantly, and just seeing the worry in those beautiful eyes of his...I almost wanted to go back and beg Chris for another chance to strip for him. I almost wanted to make thing right...no matter what the cost. "This Monday?" He asked, his voice shaking uncontrollably. I nodded my head, and he leaned back against the sofa...using both hands to cover his face for a moment while he tried to think.
"Tanner...listen, I'm SO sorry for all of this! I'm SOOOOO damn sorry!!! I never meant for Chris to fall for me and..."
But he let his hands drop and stopped me in mid sentence. "Awww, baby....NO! I'm not blaming you for this. I would NEVER think that any of this was your fault."
"But it IS my fault, Tanner. It is. If I had just kept my distance from Chris and stayed away from him in the first place...none of this would have happened."
"None of that matters, Derrick. Really. Ok?" He said. Even with his voice trembling a bit, he stood up on strong legs and took a hold of my hand again, kissing the back of it sweetly. "I don't even care."
"I don't believe you." I sniffled.
"Seriously. Ok?" He kissed my cheek. "This is what I care about. This right here. You and me, being close enough to feel your touch. That's what matters."
"This just...this isn't fair to you." I said, my eyes watering up as the shame and embarrassment of putting him in this position began to tie my stomach up in tight little knots. "I don't have anything to lose. Those kids don't like me anyway. They've ALWAYS hated me, and they always will. So for me...this is just one more reason to hang my head low in the hallways when I walk to class." Then...as I struggled to keep talking, the first few tears began to fall...and I started sniffling again as the emotion put a stranglehold on my every word. "But you...they're gonna tear down everything you've worked sooo hard for. All of your friends, and your achievements, and your whole social status is going to go down the drain. It's all gonna crumble because of me! And I CAN'T stop hating myself for it, Tanner! They're gonna hate you too, and it's not fair! It's not fair that you should have to live what I go through just because of some STUPID....fucking...." I started to sob, and Tanner put his hands on both of my shoulders.
"Derrick...listen to me, ok?" He said. "OK???" I looked him in the eye, and he told me, "The only thing that I have to lose in this world, that means ANYTHING at all...is you. Do you understand that? I don't care about anything else. I don't care if the whole WORLD hated me...as long as I knew that you loved me, I'll be ok. We'll BOTH be ok."
"You're just saying that..."
"No, I'm not."
"You ARE! How can you say that?" I asked, and he wiped my tears away for me, a bit of moisture appearing in his eyes as he saw me so 'broken' in front of him.
After a short pause, Tanner closed his eyes for a second, and then asked, "Do you want me to tell her?" He asked, a serious tone in his voice.
"Do what? Tell her? Tell who?"
"My mother." He said. And despite the overall horror of the concept, he looked like he was dead serious about it.
"What....what are you talking about?"
He held my cheeks in his hands, and kissed me tenderly on the lips. "Derrick...the most important thing to me in this world...is being able to stand right here, right now, and kiss my boyfriend on the lips as an expression of how I truly feel. You're the one person in existence that gives my life meaning. You're not just some cute guy that I picked up to satisfy my need for affection...I love you. I love you, and care about you, and nothing about my life is worth a damn without you." He said. "If you want me to go upstairs...right now...and tell my mother that we're in love...I'll do it. And I don't give a shit what she has to say about it. Because this is OUR relationship. Yours and mine. And nobody else is invited to comment, judge, or even understand that, unless we decide it's necessary."
"Tanner...this kind of thing....it doesn't go away. Ever. If it gets out that we're gay..."
"Then we'll deal with it. And we'll deal with it together. And when times get hard, we'll have each other to hold on to for support." I couldn't believe what he was saying. I couldn't believe that he was willing to leave something like this to chance. He wiped a few more of my tears away, but they were running freely now, and my cheeks wouldn't stay dry for more than a second at a time. It hurt him to see me so distraught, but I couldn't stop shaking. The more I tried to contain my fear of what was going to happen come Monday morning, the stronger it got. Tanner tried to calm me down, and brought me down to sit on the couch with him. "You know....despite the fact that everything might seem all easy and carefree for us right now, it really hasn't been. I mean, it took us MONTHS to even talk to one another. And even when I started coming over to your house and fell in love with everything you are...it took a LOT of scared little glances and comments before the very idea of being with you didn't absolutely terrify me. Don't you remember that?"
I was still crying a bit, but the memory did make me smile a bit. "You know...I think I watched you on the bus for an eternity. 'Sniffle'...I never got tired of looking at you."
"I wanted to say something, I just...I didn't know how. I cried sooo much because I had no idea what to do with the feeling. I couldn't make it go away, I couldn't ignore it when you were around, I SURE as hell couldn't express it...I was in Chris' place once too. And it hurt every day. If only I could count the number of tears I shed over you, before and after the first time you told me you felt the same way. And since then..I haven't regretted a single day since. Not a one."
"Me either..." I said, kissing his cheek.
"Derrick, we've fought too hard to get over our own fears to be together. Through bullshit, and my screwed up family, and Chris' cruel little games, and a great deal of distance...just to be here right now...sitting side by side, just inches away from a kiss that could overpower any obstacle that the world could ever hope to throw at us. And, no matter what happens...we'll get through this too. This and a whole lot more."
I looked down at my lap, my fingers interlaced between his, and felt a few more warm tears trickle down my cheeks. "I don't know...if I can be that strong, Tanner. I don't know if I can...tell my mom...who I really am."
He held my hand tighter, and I leaned my head on his shoulder as he attempted to comfort me. He asked, "Do you think...she'd be upset? I mean...if you think you might need a place to stay, it's no problem..."
"No. No, it's nothing like that." I said, wishing that I had a more concrete answer to give him. I took a long moment, trying to get the words together, trying to find the reason. But as much as it choked and burned in the back of my throat...it just wouldn't come to me. Even with all its frightening threats and terrors...it just remained this dark area of unknown...'change'. And it was a change that I wasn't ready to face. I felt Tanner's angelic kiss touch the top of my forehead as he lightly brushed my blond locks away from the tender spot. I sniffled, "I just..don't think I can disappoint her, Tanner. I'm sorry, I just...I can't let her know. I can't tell her. Even if I know she'd understand." I looked up from his shoulder, to see his sweet stare looking back at me. "Am I totally crazy for that?"
"No. You're not crazy." He told me, and wrapped his arms around my shoulders as I sank my tear stained face into his chest. "I know what it's like I feel it too."
We were quiet for a moment, and I asked, "Can you just....hold me for a while? Please?"
It never took more than a word. Sometimes it didn't even take that much. But Tanner held me on that couch for as long as he could. For as long as his mother's 'schedule' would allow. Not that he had any trouble telling her to wait...but the last thing I wanted was for the two of them to begin any conflicts right now. Especially considering what we might have to confess to her in the next 48 hours. So I told him to go. I practically had to FORCE him to go. And he kissed me deeply on the lips before we left that basement. It was the kind of loving embrace that felt like it could erase the whole world and everything in it, if only you believed in it. And I did. I believed with all my heart.
He offered me a ride home, and while spending time in a car with his mother sounded like a 'splendid' idea...I told him I wanted to take the bus. I figured that I needed the extra time to straighten my thoughts out. His last words to me, before hugging me tight in front of his mom, were, "You call me if you need me. I'm not taking calls from ANYONE else until you talk to me, ok?" And with that, I told him to wipe his eye as another stray tear was getting ready to fall, and he smiled in return.
The bus ride home was a quiet one. Certain realities began to take a hold of me, and I thought about how awful it would be for my mom to find out that I was gay from Chris....instead of me. How bad it would sound coming from a bunch of cackling 'goons' instead of her own son. And that meant that if I was going to somehow 'pad' the blow...I might have to beat Chris to the punch. I might have to tell her myself. And that thought alone nearly started the waterworks again on the bus. It was only the humiliation of crying in front of strangers that held it back.
Getting home was hard. I sat in my room, watching the minutes race by on the clock in my bedroom as I tried to rush through a few scenarios as to how to say what I needed to say. Come on, Derrick! It's your MOM! We can do this! I can...I can just start off with something...'gay' related or something...and then just move into telling her. There's gotta be something going on in 'gay news' at the moment, right? Ummm....think. Think, think, think! FUCK!!!! The *ONE* time I need some weirdo, gay bashing, fanatic to actually DO something news worthy...they're all surprisingly silent. So much for that idea.
I heard the front door open as my mom came home from work, and felt that intense fear swelling up in my chest as she called out my name. "Derrick? You home?"
I sat up on my bed, and twiddled my thumbs for a moment as the silly idea of 'hiding out' crossed my mind. Then I answered back, "......Hi, Mom." What was HAPPENING to me??? I was shivering, sweating, nearly gasping for breath.
I had to literally force my legs to move, and, with a silent count to ten, I got up and walked out of my room...to see her face to face. The adrenaline pumping through my veins at that moment was enough to for me to win the state horse races on foot! I thought my heart was actually going to jump out of place and end up somewhere else in my body. I could hear her in the kitchen, and just as I was getting close to rounding the corner and being visible, I could feel my eyes straining to water up again.
NO!!! I was a few seconds short of SLAPPING myself to keep the tears away Straighten up. Breathe. Go in the kitchen. Talk. Once we get things in motion...the rest will be easy. We can't just let Chris win this time. We've just gotta grow some balls and DO this! So I got my act together, and then timidly peeked around the corner to see her putting some stuff in the fridge out of few grocery bags.
I watched in silence for a second or two when she saw me. "Hey, sweetie." She smiled. "Guess what? You remember those little stuff pasta shells that I used to make for you and your dad when you were younger? Well, some guy came into the diner with his work buddies asking for the 'cheap' version that the boss usually sells there, and tries to pass off as something fancy. Well, the guy hated it. Hehehe, sent it back and wanted his money refunded for such a horrible meal."
I grinned a bit, trying to hide my nervousness. "You're smiling like that's good news."
"It IS good news! Because I told the boss that I could make him a better batch if he didn't mind waiting, and they worked it out. So I gave him MY shells...and he couldn't get enough of them. Left a THIRTY dollar tip on a fifty dollar tab! I figured I'd stop off at the grocery store and pick up a few things on the way. I had so much fun making those shells I thought maybe I'd make them for us tomorrow. Sort of a treat. What do ya say?" She was so happy. So comfortable. Did she even know what was coming?
"That sounds...awesome." I said. I was frozen in place for a minute, hoping not to let her current cheerful mood intimidate me too much. I guess there's never a 'right' time for this, huh? "M-M-Mom?" I said...my voice trembling even worse than before.
"Can....can we...'talk' for a second?" I asked, and when she looked up at me, I did all I could to not be knocked over by her concern.
"Is anything wrong?"
"Just...uhhh...well..." Don't 'think'! There's no way to really rehearse this kind of thing. Just...start the ball rolling, and hopefully everything will fall into place. "...Mom, sit down for a second, ok?"
She put the groceries down and closed the refrigerator. I had to sit down too, but couldn't lift my eyes up from the seemingly mismatched design of the tattered plastic table cloth. "Derrick?" She asked me, after a bit of a pause. And I had to fight soooo hard to keep from crying again. If I start crying, she's just gonna get flustered and worried and I wasn't gonna be able to do this properly with her all 'freaked out' like that.
"Mom...you know...I went to Tanner's today. You know...umm...so we had a talk about some...'stuff'." Just say it, Derrick Just say it.
"Ok..." She said, giving me the chance to speak. God...how I wished I didn't have the chance to speak. It felt like this spotlight was on me now, and the ability to breathe was decreasing by the second.
"He...that is...Tanner and I are...kinda 'close'." I said, and for a moment, I thought that I saw a spark in her eyes that recognized what 'close' meant. For some stupid reason, I automatically retracted the statement. "I MEAN...we're close friends. Like...we tell each other everything." I don't know why I did it. This is what I'm trying to tell her, right? I should have just let her come to the right conclusion! Now I've gotta start all over again. "Well...you remember when I was little, and little Susie Slater next door used to kiss me all the time...and I would threaten to hit her with a stick to....um...keep her away from me...?" Ok, where the hell was I going with THIS line of conversation??? "Well...I mean...it's not that I hated HER, really...I just didn't like...'girls'....back then."
My mom was clearly confused. "Derrick, you were seven. No boy likes girls when he's seven." She grinned.
"I know...but....now it's like...I kinda...'still'...." Ugh...no, this is the wrong way to go. "Wait...let me start over."
"Derrick, honey...whatever it is, just spit it out." She reached out to hold my hands across the kitchen table. "Talk to me. I'm sure it's not that bad." She had no idea.
I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes as I lowered my head. "Mom......" Just breathe, Derrick. Just breathe. It'll feel soooo much better to just get it out. "...Me and Tanner...umm....me and....and Tanner...are uh.." My legs got weak. My stomach flipped upside down. And my throat tightened up tot he point where I couldn't swallow a single drop of saliva. And just as the panic got to be soooo great that it nearly devoured me inside, I said..."Me and Tanner have been ditching a couple of classes together. JUST a couple...but...I just felt....bad about it. That's all." It was a cop out. It was a complete and total transformation into a full blown chicken. But my strength had left me. My courage had dissolved into nothing, and I had NOTHING left to hold me upright. As it was, I felt like I was gonna faint.
"Ditching classes? Is THAT what's gotten you so worried these past few days?" She asked me.
Say NO! Say NO, Derrick...and tell her the fucking TRUTH! Come on!!! "Yeah....I just didn't want you to be...mad at me."
She sat back in her chair for a moment, and she said, "You know...when your father got....'sick'...he told me something important. He said, 'Katherine...one day soon, that boy is going to be a full blown teenager. He's part you, and part me, and if that's any indication of the teen he's gonna be, you're going to be in for one hell of a wild ride." She smiled at the thought of it, a touch of sadness mixed in from not having him around any more. Then she said, "He told me that, before you graduated high school...that I would run into at least FIVE incidents...where I'd just have to sit back, count to ten, and say to myself that 'boys will be boys'. He warned me, and even though I told him it wasn't in your heart to do anything inherently wicked...he swore up and down that those days would come, like it or not. And sure enough...I can see it on the horizon more and more every day." She clasped my hands for a moment longer, and then let me go. "I didn't want to believe that my little angel would ever go astray one day, but that's a part of growing up, I suppose."
"No, it's ok. I understand. I don't like you ditching school, and we didn't put forth good money for you to waste it running the streets, Derrick. You're better than that. We did everything we could to keep you 'away' from the bad stuff...and if you just stay focused...you're going to make one hell of a good man someday. Ok? Just keep your heart. That's the most beautiful part of you, baby. And you're going to realize that someday. You really are the spitting image of your father. And if I remember your father correctly as a teenager...hehehe, that means you're going to be one HELL of a handful!" I lowered my eyes, but tried to smile for her anyway. "But...handfull or not...I love you. At the end of the day, I love you. No matter what. Ok?"
I don't think she got it. She has no idea how close I came to telling her who I really was. But at this point, I just needed an escape. ANY escape And as this growing panic expanded inside of me to the bursting point, I stood up from the table. "Thank you, Mom. And....I'm...I'm sorry, ok?"
"Hey...just don't do it any more. Alright? Go to school, keep your head in those books. You'll appreciate all that hard work later. Don't make a mistake you can't take back." She said, and I nodded, just trying to leave that room as soon as possible. "What did I tell you, huh?" She said. "I take care of you..."
"...And I take care of you." I told her, completing our private motto between us. And she allowed me to leave without any other questions. You would have thought that the exit from danger would make me feel better....but it didn't.
In fact....things got worse.
The second I got to my room and closed the door, the panic inside began to scratch and claw at my insides like a rabid beast! The minor trembles that I was experiencing before had turned to violent spasms that nearly rattled me to pieces. I paced back and forth in my room, faster and faster, nervous tears literally POURING out of my eyes as I tried to hold my breath to keep from crying out loud. The hysteria grew...and grew...and GREW...and in the matter of a minute or two, I was suddenly so scared that I felt my stomach begin to tighten and heave all on its own.
I suddenly ran out of my bedroom and into the bathroom, slamming the door shut as I knelt down at the toilet and begin to throw up from fear alone! From what I was about to do! What I was about to SAY!!! My mom came by shortly after to knock on the door and ask if I was alright...and despite my positive answer...I had to ask myself...
..WAS I alright? Would I ever be alright again?
As I knelt there, tears in my frightened eyes, I swear that I could still feel time...racing by...waiting to expose me. Waiting to tear down my paradise and put a personal hell in its place. I'm just not ready. I'm.....I'm JUST not ready.