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The drive home....
It was probably the scariest, most disturbing, twenty minutes of silence that I had ever experienced before!
I had *NO* idea what to do with this trembling sensation in my chest at ALL!
My mom was so heated at the moment, both of her hands gripping the steering wheel with a vengeance, her frustrated eagle eyes focused on the scrolling asphalt in front of us...that I found it difficult to even CREATE a short string of words that would ease the tension between us without making it undeniably worse.
I watched helplessly from the passenger seat of the car. Afraid to look her in the eye. Wondering if she was going to pull a 'crazed mom moment' and drive us into the freakin' RIVER to drown us both at any given moment!!!
Jesus! What had I done??? What kind of protective monster had I created by coming home with visible bruises on my face??? This is INSANE right now!!!
"You know what, Derrick?" She said, snapping my words off the second they left my lips. "I don't care what kind of male pride thing you've got going on right now, but this is too much. When you're in trouble, you need HELP. What made you think that I was just going to sit here and turn a blind eye to something like this?"
"And that SCHOOL? That school is going to DO something about this right away. I don't care if I have to come down there and shake the walls with my bare hands. I'm going to...."
"MOM! Red light!" I shouted, and she slammed on the brakes to bring us to a screeching halt. She had to calm herself down a bit, and I saw her close her eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. Still shaking, I spoke softly. "Mom? I'm ok. Everything is ok..."
The light turned green, but she didn't seem too 'convinced'. I dreaded what she was going to do to me when she got me home. I mean...it's not like she could spank me, right? Ummm...uhh....right?
As we pulled into the driveway, I felt my defenses swirling up to protect myself. The car had barely stopped rolling before she yanked the keys out of the ignition and swung her car door open. "Don't just sit there. Let's go." She said, and quickly stomped her way into the house.
Don't break, Derrick. She's mad, but it'll pass. She'll yell at me for a little bit, then she'll make me promise to tell her if I have any more trouble, and then it'll be over. If I can just make it through the next fifteen to twenty minutes, things will get back to normal. I've just gotta be more careful from now on.
By the time I walked through the front door, my mother was already standing there with her arms folded, her purse thrown onto the couch, her foot tapping impatiently. Hold it together, Derrick. And for God's sake, watch her hands. I don't trust her right now.
"We're getting to the bottom of this. Right now. What's going on at school?" She said, her lips tightened, daring me to lie.
"I know that it looks bad, and at first it really sucked. But I survived. The worst of it is over..."
"The worst of it is NOT over! It's happened more than once, so it's not over. I don't send you to school so you can survive, Derrick. I send you to learn. Somebody seems to have a problem with that. I want to know who. I want names, I want faces, I want phone numbers. Out with it." Was she serious???
Okayyyyy, so maybe I had underestimated her anger this time around. This was more than just lowering my head and listening to a strongly worded lecture. She was on an actual crusade here. In which case, the silent puppy dog eyes routine wasn't going to do me a bit of good. So instead, I tried to get some distance from the situation.
"It was nobody, ok? I don't...I don't even know them. It happened really fast..." I avoided her eyes, and while I was talking, I was slowly turning to inch my way back to my bedroom, hoping that she wouldn't follow me. "...I don't even really know if they go to that school. The could have been...from somewhere else. I'm not sure..."
"Don't you walk away from me, Derrick! I'm talking to you!" She said, her voice raised louder than I have heard it since I was little and had broken the kitchen window with a rock. Yikes...she really was steamed. "I want to know what's going on. Talk. Why are these boys harassing you at school?"
"Mom, I told you, it's nothing. Alright? It was a 'fight'. Kids get in fights every day."
"So what were you fighting about?"
"NOTHING! They were picking on me! I get picked on all the time, it happens. Can we just leave it alone now?"
"No. We can't just leave it alone." She said. "Was it about money?"
"It wasn't about money..."
"So what was it about then? Spill it. What's going on with you these days? What is it? I want to know. Tell me."
"I really don't want to do this right now." I said, feeling this strange emotion building up in the back of my throat.
"Too bad. You're doing it. We're not going to keep going around in circles like this. So talk to me. C'mon, talk. TALK!" She was badgering me, and waiting for an answer. I rolled my eyes, but she was still pushing. "What is it? Come on, Derrick...you've got to give me something here. You're quiet, you're withdrawn, you hide things from me, You LIE to my face, you're ditching classes, you're getting into fights at school...what the hell is wrong with you? Talk to me."
"Mom...." The pressure was building up even more. Faster than I could choke it back down. I just wanted to leave. Just leave.
"You can tell me, Derrick. I'm right here. Open your mouth and tell me what's on your mind."
"I don't want to talk about it...."
"Whatever it is, you and I can sit down and we can handle it together..."
"Not this time, ok? Just leave it alone!"
"TELL me! Why are these boys jumping on you at school?"
"Just stop it, alright???" I pleaded. "You don't know what you're talking about..."
"So teach me. I need an answer..."
"Enough's enough, Derrick..."
"This is so stupid..."
"I want you to feel like you can talk to me when..."
"Why are you pushing so HARD on this...???"
"What is it that's got you so turned around these days, Derrick? I'm so sick of you dodging me!"
"I'm NOT dodging you!!!"
"Well then, Goddammit, TALK to me!!!"
"I'M *GAY*, ALRIGHT!!!!"
It was, quite possibly, the most frightening moment of silence that I had ever been witness to. The kind of silence you would expect just seconds after hearing the archangel, Gabriel's, horn blow during a Biblical apocalypse.
My eyes widened.
Her eyes widened.
And we stood there, facing each other, barely able to breathe.
I felt this unimaginably violent tremor rumble through the pit of my stomach, realizing much too late what I had just done. I almost thought that my bowels were going to release themselves right there on the living room floor if I didn't keep my mind focused on preventing the mess. Oh God....oh GOD!!!!!! What the FUCK have I done????
Without any control over my body at all....I gasped out loud, "Holy shit..."
My mother responded with a similar gasp of her own. "Holy shit, indeed...."
I was frozen. We both were. The moment lasted ten eternities, back to back. I couldn't get any air into my lungs. My heart was pounding so hard that I think it was actually cracking my ribs from the inside. And the horror of my actions threatened to pull me apart emotionally as I waited for her to respond.
I felt this almost unbearable rush of adrenaline flood into my bloodstream. I started shaking uncontrollably. My eyes misted over with tears of utter panic. My bottom lip began to quiver helplessly as there were no words to explain my sudden outburst. But my 'fight or flight' reflex was stuck in neutral. I just stood there. Exposed. Scared. Alone.
Then...in a sudden moment of pure hysteria, I opened my mouth to say something to defend myself and deny that the last comment ever existed at all. But nothing came out. Just another overabundance of added silence. In sheer terror, I turned away from my mother's wide open, horrified, eyes. Then I turned back to face her. Then away. Then back. And then, when I couldn't bear to see that look in her eyes any longer....I simply turned away again, with an ice cold shiver racing down my spine, and I quickly left the room in a daze. I just...I walked out. And I didn't look back. Fuck! FUCK!!!
Why did I do it??? WHY??? I didn't have to! Why did I say that??? Oh shit! God, I'm gonna CRY now!!!! SHIT!!! WHAT DID I DO????? WHAT DID I *DO*????
As I got closer to my bedroom, I felt my footsteps getting faster. Just trying to find a place of supposed safety. I rushed in and stood in the center of the room, hoping that it would bring me some peace of mind. Praying even MORE that this was all just a nightmare, and I could wake up in my bed safe and sound...without ever having spoken those scandalous words aloud! In front of my MOTHER no less!!! Oh God...I'm gonna be SICK! I just know I'm gonna be sick! Breathe, Derrick. Keep the garbage can next to you, just in case. I was already heaving. This is bad. Oh God...this is sooooo bad!
I don't think anyone knows the unfathomable, paralyzing, fear that comes with telling a parent that they're gay. I don't think they'll ever be able to sympathize enough to understand. It's an emotional checkmate. A combination of every possible worst case scenario they can imagine, all rolled into one. It's the total destruction of a fucking *LIFE*...and the beginning of a new one. A drastically different one. Sometimes a better life. Sometimes.....
I tried to catch my breath again, but even though my chest was heaving with giant gasps, I felt like I still couldn't get any oxygen in. I didn't know which corner of the room to turn to. My brain was on overload. This was it. I've ended my life. I might as well have put a bullet in a gun and pulled the trigger while it was lodged in between my teeth! It's over! It's all fucking OVER!!! What the hell did I do? How the hell could I just...let it slip out like that??? I fucked up EVERYTHING! I just...I don't know what to....
...I've single-handedly caused the destruction of my childhood. And there's no getting it back now. Not ever.
Should I...like...'pack' or something? Just grab some clothes and my toothbrush and just disappear for a few days? Maybe hang at one of the places that Joel's been running off to when he needed a place to crash? Just until things cool off? What do I do? I think...I think I just need to get out of here. I don't know where I'm going, but I've got to get out of HERE!!!
I'm going. I'm....I'm going. I've gotta go. This is bad. This is really really fucking BAD! I'm going. I have to go....
I turned around, and I saw my mom standing in the doorway of the room.
I instantly lowered my head, looking down at my shoes. If I just keep my eyes down and push my way past her, I can leave. She can't just stop me, right? I just...I need an exit. ANY exit. Like...NOW!
"I'm going out for a while. I'll be back later, ok?" I said, trying to slide by her. But she stood her ground right in front of me and put her hands out to cover the door frame.
"Derrick? Honey, wait...let's talk about this..."
"No. It's ok. I'll uh...I mean, we can talk later. I just forgot that I need to grab something...from somewhere...so I'll be back..."
"Derrick?" She said, still not letting me pass. "Please? Ok. Just...just give me a minute. Alright? Just a minute. Come on...sit. Sit down." She said, and she guided me over to plop down on the foot of my bed with a pout.
She let out a nervous sigh, and sat down next to me. Neither one of us looked at the other. And the silence returned with twice as much tension wrapped around it than before.
A full minute went by. It was becoming more and more awkward by the second. I couldn't stop trembling. Not even if I wanted to.
Then she gathered some courage and said, "Soooo....." But didn't say anything else after that.
"Soooo...?" I said in response. She didn't have a reaction. Not one that could be put into words, anyway. So I tried to let her off the big meat hook I had just slammed her on. "Mom...it's ok. If you think you have to have some big TV sitcom moment with me about this right now...you don't...."
"I know. I know. Just...give me a second, ok?" She said. "They don't exactly give us a chapter on this in the parenting handbook."
"There's a handbook?"
"Yes. A very thin one. It basically consists of one page that says, 'You're on your own, jackass. Good luck.'" She sighed to herself. So helpless. Unable to find any comforting words at all to give me in this situation. It was one problem that we both knew she couldn't fix. We both sat there, side by side, staring at the floor. I don't know why...but I suddenly felt like bawling my eyes out. I probably would have if she wasn't right there next to me.
Every breath of air felt ice cold to me. Every second was an added humiliation. Some moments truly disrupt your stability...and end up defining the rest of your natural life. I'm assuming this is one of them. I can tell, because it feels like I just had a giant wrecking ball swung at my chest at top speed.
Finally, I saw my mom rub her legs with both hands, and she turned to look at me. I didn't have the guts to look back. I was too ashamed of myself.
"Derrick...honey...." Already, she sounded a bit choked up. "...If you're worried at all that this is going to change how I feel about you and what you mean to me...don't be. Ok?" She said, and she raised her hand up to lightly run it through my hair. Just hearing that...just feeling that same loving touch that she had always given me since I was little...familiar, unaltered...it was the catalyst that caused the first tear to slide down my cheek. "Oh baby, I'd be insulted if the thought of me loving you any less had ever crossed your mind. You're my SON. I feed you, I fight for you, I love you...no matter what. You hear me?" More tears poured out of my eyes in silence, and I sniffled a bit, trying to hold myself together. "We're a team, you and me. You know that. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you. Nothing."
She continued to pet my hair, now sniffling a bit herself. It was making it harder to keep my composure. "I...I just..." I started, and my mom put her arm around me to pull me close as my crying got worse. "I wanted to say something...I thought...one day I'd be able to tell you, but..." I sobbed on her shoulder. "I didn't want you to be disappointed in me. I wanted to be better than this. You....you worked soooo hard..."
"Awwww, honey...no." She said. She lifted my chin. "Look at me. Derrick? Eyes up...look at me." I saw her watery eyes, and it felt like my heart broke. "I don't work hard for me and what I want. I work hard for you. I work to make things better for you. For both of us. You can't EVER disappoint me by being 'you'. Don't you understand that? I love everything about you. All the stuff I know, and all the stuff I don't. When I tell you that I care about you, that doesn't come with any fine print. No conditions of service. No void of warrantee. Ok? Some people may rant and rave and try to control the people around them in order to make themselves happy...but I'm not one of those people. My concern is making sure that YOU'RE happy. That's all I want. It's all I've ever wanted since the moment the nurse put you on your mommy's chest." She kissed the top of my head, and I realized that I was in the same position that I was on the day I was born. Laying my head right over her heart, letting the steady rhythm calm me down. "I made a promise to protect you and look out for you no matter what. And I'm not about to break the deal now. I've grown too used to having you around, kid."
"I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so soooo sorry..."
"Shhh, there's nothing to be sorry about. Ok? We're...we're going to get through this. Just like we got through everything else."
"I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say. I just...I always had this really SICK feeling in my stomach, and I...I just couldn't..."
"I know, baby. I know." She said, rocking me gently as she held me in her arms. "Well, you don't have to worry about that anymore. Ok?"
"I thought...I thought that maybe I wouldn't have to deal with it. I thought that maybe it would just...'go away'. Or that it was some stupid teenage thing that would pass and be forgotten about. But things started getting worse, and I was trying to contain it somehow...and then I found someone, and I wasn't alone anymore, and things just kinda..."
Her rocking stopped. Like...on a dime. I think I actually heard her heart cease beating for a full three seconds. I think I had gotten a little too comfortable with the confessions there. "Boyfriend? You have...you have a boyfriend? My son has a boyfriend?" She asked.
Totally humiliated by another blurted admission...I cringed slightly and nodded my head.
"Whoah....ummm...how long have you had a....a boyfriend?" She asked, still reeling from the news.
"Uhhh...it's been...a while now." I said. She looked down at me, and I winced as she took a moment to process this information.
"A while now?" She asked.
She was silent for a moment. "Have I met him?"
Ugh...ok, THIS part of the conversation is a lot trickier than the last part. "Well, sort of...yeah. I guess."
Another sigh escaped her lips. "Okaaay....ok. Well....I uh...ok...." She rambled on for a moment, but tried to hide her surprise once she got over the initial 'sucker punch' of it all. She nodded, and hugged me tight again. She said, "Well...alright. We can do this. No problem. Remember, I love you. Ok? Always. I take care of you...you take care of me. It's going to be ok, baby. I promise." Then...she added, "I think I know who it is. Maybe, deep down, I've known for a long time now."
I gasped. "You do???"
"I've got a pretty good idea. I just...I should have known that you boys were much too close to just be buddies." She said. "I think...I might be a bit uncomfortable with the sleepovers and all. We'll have to talk about that some more. But...I get it. It's ok. If you and Joel want to be together, then you two make it work. Don't you dare let anybody tell you any different..."
"I know that you're growing up, Derrick. And I mean...in time, I might be persuaded to give you guys some privacy. But I don't know if I'm ok with him staying in your room. That's going to have to change..."
"Mom..." I whined. "NOT Joel! Tanner! Tanner's my boyfriend."
She seemed shocked yet again. "Tanner? he boy from school, Tanner?"
"Oh!" She said, wide eyed. "Oh wow! He's really CUTE!" I think she blurted it out loud by mistake, but I lifted my head and gave her a strange look. "What?"
"I don't know, Mom, I just...I think it's really weird that you just said that."
"I'm sorry...but he is. He's...EXTREMELY cute! He's like the boys you only see on TV..."
"Hehehe, um OK, Mom! You can stop now!" I giggled.
She smiled warmly at me. "I can't help it. I just...I think I'm feeling really proud right now that my son was able to pull such a hottie for his first time out." She grinned to herself, "Tanner is a babe. My first boyfriend looked like a swamp frog with glasses." I laughed out loud at the idea, and she gave me another kiss as she laughed with me. "He DID! Melvin T. Hickweather. Nice boy. Lots of brains. But....hehehe...."
"A swamp frog with glasses?"
"Hey! I was 12! Give me a break." She said, swatting my shoulder. Then, once the giggles stopped, she gave me another squeeze, and she said, "Well, you tell Tanner that he's welcome over here any time he wants to come over. Ok?"
"Oh, he's been here. Plenty of times..." I raised an eyebrow, and she tickled my ribs.
"Derrick! I don't want to know that! I'm your MOTHER!" She laughed.
"What happened to being able to talk to you about 'anything'?"
"What happened to you keeping a few secrets to yourself, buddy???" It was a warm moment, but she didn't forget what this whole talk was originally supposed to be about. I could see the seriousness return to her eyes after a short pause, and she asked me, "So...these other boys at school? They know about this? Are they...bashing you and Tanner? Is that what this is?"
"No. They don't know. They couldn't." I said. "I think they're just doing it because they can. Jerks."
"Ok. So...who else knows about you two?" She asked.
"Yes. Including me."
"Well...umm...just you." I told her.
"....Oh...." She said with a nod.
Then I mentioned, "Oh, and...there might be one...other boy at school. But that's it."
"Do you think this other boy told anyone else?"
"I think it's safe to say that he didn't."
"Why would you say that?" She asked.
YIKES! "Ummmm...Mom? Trust me...that's a very long and twisted story. If you want me to keep a few sordid details to myself...I would definitely start with him."
"Ok, ok...I don't think I want to know!" She said, covering her ears. Then, she sat me up, and brushed my blond hair out of my eyes. "Here's the deal...from now on, if anybody puts there hands on you, you go to that office and you TELL somebody. You hear me?"
"C'mon, Mom, I told you..."
"No no no...forget what you told me. I'm telling you. You get your butt down to that office and you tell them what's going on. Then you come home and you tell ME what's going on. I don't care if we have to go back to that office again and again and AGAIN until they're sick of us...we're going to fix this. You hear me? No more of this male pride garbage. No more hiding bruises, no more lies, no more trying to handle everything all by yourself. Part of becoming an adult is knowing when to ask for help. Ok?"
"Alright then." She said, kissing my forehead. "I don't care if that whole faculty clears the halls and hides under the desks when they see me drive up. If they want me to stay out of their hair, then they'll get these bullies to stay out of yours." She ruffled my hair, and said, "Besides...my son's boyfriend is WAY too hot to be seen with someone all battered up like you've been this past week..."
"Omigod, Mom, will you *STOP* saying that?!?!?!"
"No way! You've got a perfect ten in that boy! I'd brag to everybody who will listen if I were you."
"You're NOT me! And stop it! You're creeping me out, now!"
"Oh wow, the next time he comes over, I just HAVE to get a picture of you two together! Oh my God, that would be so CUTE!!!"
"MOM!!! Jesus! Don't you DARE!!!"
"I'm going to get the HD digital camera out of the closet and keep it in the living room where I can get a hold of it..." She lifted me up and let me flop back down to the mattress as she hurried out of the room.
"Mom!" I called out. "MOM??? Seriously...don't ok?" Right. Like I was actually going to persuade her not to take pictures now that she knew. "I'm gonna tell him not to come over here anymore if I see you anywhere NEAR a camera! I swear, I will!" She didn't listen. I just heard her rummaging around in the hall closet and shook my head.
But as I lay there on my side at the foot of my bed...something became clear to me.
It was ok...
I mean...I told her...
She knows now, for sure...
....And it was ok.
I don't think it really sunk in until a minute or two later when I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling.
Suddenly...that weight that had been pressing down on me for sooooo long...that rope around my throat, cutting off my voice...those cinder blocks around my ankles, holding me back...that full body suit of emotional armor, making it impossible for anyone to get too close for fear that they'd find out about my shameful little secret...
...All of it was gone.
With one ten minute conversation with my mom...it was gone.
Every time that I had to peek out of the corner of my eye to keep from letting anyone know that I was staring at a cute boy...
Every time that I had to hide my internet history, or my magazines, or pretend that I was watching certain goofy TV shows for any other reason other than the main character was sexy...
Every time I looked at Tanner from across the room, and had to fight to keep from letting the affection show on my face...
Every whisper, every secret, every rumor, every lie...all gone.
I almost didn't know what to do with the emotion. I felt like I was floating. Actually floating. And as a smile spread out across my face, tears running out of both eyes...I thought to myself...
"Maybe it really will be ok. In fact...it might even be better..."
Keep an eye out for my new eBook stories at the