As I sat on the park bench I felt the winds changing. Have you ever noticed the smell in the air just when it is about to rain? That smell, that clean fresh smell, an omen of something coming. The last time I was happy was over eight weeks ago. Then everything was perfect, all of us were happy and together again after four years, finally back to the way things used to be. At least it was like that for awhile then it blew up, right in my face ... because of me.
The hardest part of the last few weeks was first period Science class. Alex would come in right as the bell rang and would sit in front of the class and never look back. I think Mr. Shore figured something was wrong because Alex used to follow him around the room with his eyes, watching him as he lectured. After Alex found out about me he just kept his attention on his notes with his face buried in his notebook. Then, after the second week, Alex, Alisa and Brad seemed as if they dropped off of the face of earth. It was no one else's fault but mine. I ruined it all. All I had to do was tell the truth, Tell Brad that I was the one who started the rumor about him, that his best friend turned his back on him. Maybe then he would have forgiven me, at least given me a chance to plead my case. If they'd been angry then we wouldn't have gotten back together in the first place, and I wouldn't be feeling such a sense of loss. Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than never have loved doesn't know what the fuck they are talking about.
"Justin" Hey, Justin!"
"Did you hear me? I said just one more game and we're state champs, buddy," Tony said, bringing me back into the lunch room, back to the land of the living.
"Damn Justin, what's wrong with you?" he asked, looking concerned
"Justin, are you sure you are ok?" Kate asked.
"There's nothing wrong with me," I snapped at her.
"Don't yell at me," Kate shouted back.
"I'm sorry...guys I'm fine."
"Bullshit...I see it ...Kate sees it...everyone sees it. Lately when you're on the Football field you're a madman, and off the field you're in your own world, oblivious to everyone and everything around you...I mean at the last game you blew up at Joe, me and everyone else for not running the right routes, blowing our blocking assignments, not making it to the hole, dropping a pass. Then you Said fuck it to him, me and everyone else and that you'll do it yourself. Then for the rest of the game you kept changing plays at the line and running the ball yourself. And why are you taking all those vicious hits at the end of the plays? What are you trying to do, kill yourself?"
"You sound like coach," I said with a smile, not wanting him to know how pissed off I was, "What, are you and him talking behind my back?"
"You know I think you're the best QB in the state and I love the way you play, but you have to tone it down a bit, bro. It's not only coach who thinks so," he said as he looked a Kate.
"What, are you ganging up on me too?" I asked as I looked at Kate then back to Tony
"Don't even get on her, she never said anything to me until after the Marshall game, and that was three weeks ago. I told her that I'd keep and eye out."
'Thanks a lot. I thought you where my bud."
"Well I could say the same thing. For someone who's supposed to be my friend, you sure don't act like it. You're playing recklessly Justin. When coach pulled you in the beginning of the next game, at first I though he was crazy, but then after you went back in because JC got hurt I saw what you were doing. You were passing up on plays where you could have easily made a short pass, but instead you were running the ball yourself. It's not necessary."
"Come on Tony, you know what it takes to win and what another state will do for us for college."
"Justin, you've never been a glory hound. Something's up. What gives?"
"Nothing. I just want to get into a good school, and if we don't win state I can't pick the one I want to go to."
"Justin, if you keep playing the way you do you won't make it to college," Kate said
"I'm ok guys. There's nothing to worry about," I said with a smile, but they both could tell it was fake and I was pissed.
"Look I know you miss Alisa, Alex and Brad, but..." Tony cut off Kate in mid sentence.
"Dude, not them again. It's been four weeks and they haven't so much as looked at you. I say fuck them if they can't forgive you for a little misunderstanding. They're not worthy of being your friends. I mean, come on! Everybody in the school thought Brad was a fag and fucking Alex is an asshole anyway."
"Tony!" Kate gave him a stern look
"Hey, it's not them okay?" I snapped back again, this time at Tony.
"Tony, baby could you go and get me a coke please?" Kate asked.
"Kate, I'm not afraid of losing you to Justin anymore. If you want to talk to him alone all you have to do is ask," Tony said as a smile slowly appeared on his face
"Could I talk to Justin alone then?" she asked him with a smile. He kissed her on the lips. "Justin, remember I'm here for you bro. All you have to do is call. I'm the one who's been your real friend. I haven't abandoned you and I won't ever. Just please let me in," he said, grabbing his books as he walked away.
"So have you talked to them at all?" Kate asked me as I started playing with my food.
"No, when I try to talk to them they just walk away or change direction. Have you tried to talk to them?"
"Yeah, but they don't want to talk about you. I asked them if they are going to go to any of the games and they say no. Then I asked Alisa about why she didn't go to the homecoming dance, if she even knew that she won the homecoming queen contest. She said she didn't care, but heard that I got second place."
"Oh...see, Its like I said. They don't care."
"You know, I could talk to.."
"Don't bother. It's no use," I said, still playing around with my food.
"Justin, I hate to see you like this."
"Like what?" I asked as I snapped to attention with a smile, "I'm happy. I 'm about to win my fourth state football title and then sign a scholarship to a major college. How could I not be happy?" I was the one who only knew why.
"But Justin, have you been able deal with yourself?"
"That? Don't worry about it, it was just a phase. Hell, I'm even looking to start dating again," I said smiling, knowing deep down I was falling apart.
"Well, if that's the case I still have a few things that I have to give back to you ... you know because ..."
"Because of Tony. I understand. So how are things really going with him? You know we haven't had much chance to talk."
"Oh, and who's fault is that?" she asked, poking me in the ribs
"I know, I know. You can beat me up later...so?"
"Well, it's going. I'm not trying to change him, just introducing him to different things. It's hard, but he is trying. We're getting real close and he's being the perfect gentleman. Tony wants me to wear his state ring on my chain. I'm already wearing his class ring, and yours is in my room. I took it off after ... you know. So I have one of you letter jackets, some CD's and a few boxers," she said as she began to laugh.
"Keep it and everything else," I said quietly
"Justin, I couldn't ... that stuff is yours and the ring was your first one," Kate said looking puzzled
"I know, I want you to have it. It was my first and so were you."
"Justin, I thought maybe you'd want to give it you your mom."
"Nah, she already has one. I gave her my second one and my dad got my third. Hell, Tony only has one to show off. He shouldn't have his tied up with you, this way he can wear his own now," I said as I got up to leave, leaving Kate with a puzzled look on her face. I knew if I didn't leave right then I'd break down in tears.
"So how did it go?" Tony asked as he sat down and held my hand "Babe?"
"Justin told me to keep everything, including the ring?"
"He did? That's odd."
"Babe please keep a close eye on him."
The rain started very lightly. I didn't know if I should make an effort to keep the papers dry. One more look at them and the pressure once again hit me. Once I signed one of them I wouldn't be able to use my next escape route. It will be cut off from me and I will have no alternate course but one. I should have been happy as I looked at the new ring on my finger. This was the fourth one, the one that stays with me.
"Here, Mom and Dad," I said with a smile as I handed them the small jeweler boxes.
"What are these for?"
"Well it's a thank you for everything," I said as they opened the boxes.
"Ah Justin, last years state ring, thanks buddy, " My father said as he put the ring on his finger.
"Thank you baby, what a pretty necklace," she said as she kissed me on the cheek and started to put it on.
"Just a sec," I said as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my ring with a ribbon on it, "This is the second part of your gift"
"Justin your ring, which one is this?" she asked as I put the necklace through the ring and placed it around her neck.
"My second one. I let Kate keep the first. Now the three most important people have something to remember me by." I paused and thought about Alex, Brad and Alisa.
"I'm so sorry about the guys, have they talked to you yet?" My mother asked.
"Mom, could we not talk about it?"
She just nodded her head as she gave me a hug. "I'm sorry your father and I didn't get you anything yet..."
"Honey you spoke to soon," my father said as he pulled an envelope out of his briefcase. "Here you go Justin."
"What is it?" I asked as I looked at the envelope
"It's your letters. Not the formal ones, they're not for another two months. These are the ones I drafted for your verbal commitment. I went ahead and picked out the five schools that you can chose from."
I was upset as I opened the letters. It was like I didn't have a say in my future. What ever happened to the fun loving man that used to be my father? The one that I used to enjoy hanging out with, where is he, and who the fuck is this guy?
My anger grew even more as I saw the names of the colleges that he had picked. "Dad, none of these schools are any of the ones I was looking at. These five were the first ones I discarded, mainly because they don't have strong wrestling programs. The coaches said that I should wrestle or play baseball once football season is over."
"I know didn't we discuss this issue last week, you are not wrestling or playing baseball after this football season is over anyway I don't want you to get hurt once you commit. And I told you were going to do baseball and football in college. The money that you can get as a 4 time state champ in football and 2 time state champ in baseball, plus with your grades...."
"Why are you talking about the money? It's never been about that before! This isn't fair! I should be able to pick what school I want to go to and what sport I want to play ... it's my life!"
I had never disagreed with my father before. I always did as I was told no questions asked, but now that I had no chance of getting back with Alisa, Alex or Brad I needed another sport or something to occupy my time. I knew if I didn't have anything to take my mind off of everything I'd go crazy or worse.
"Justin, you'll go where I tell you to go, and play what sports I tell you to play, just like I did!"
"I'm not you poppa," I said as I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
"Marr, please! He's my son. I'm only doing what's best for the boy."
"Well, he's my son too. Don't you think I also might know what's best for him? "
"The only thing you know how to do is baby the boy. I mean the way you have babied him all of his life, I'm surprised he didn't turn out gay or something. Thank god I was around."
"He's my only child."
"And whose fault is that?" My father yelled
"Stop it! " I yelled as I ran out of the house.
Storm coming somehow I wish it could wash away my problems but I know it is just rain
"Well, here we are bro ... the biggest game of the year. Knock 'em dead!"
Tony hit my shoulder pads with both hands turned to walk down the tunnel. As we walked out of the tunnel I saw Kate at the end. Tony stopped and took off his helmet and kissed her. I couldn't hear them because of the noise the crowd was making, but I could see him mouth the words I longed to hear. "I love you".
As I walked past her, I looked at her as if to ask a question that I already knew the answer to. She shook her head to tell me I was right, they weren't there.
The drizzle was turning into a light rain
"Hello Nelson residence," a voice answered. I knew who it was.
"Hello...Justin? Ah man, Justin how are you doing?" he answered back in his happy little voice.
"I'm fine and you?"
"I'm cool." He then whispered, "I miss you."
I almost lost it "I miss you too, bubba. I take it Alex is home."
"Yeah, you know the drill," he said still whispering, "Will you please tell me why you guys are fighting?"
"It's because of a mistake I made. I lost your big brothers trust. That's all I can tell you."
"Well, he's being and asshole. It's been five weeks."
"CJ, your brother did nothing wrong. I'm the one to blame. And I won't have you talking that way about my best friend. If you do I'll have to come over and kick your ass. Ok. Just tell him I called again and that I love him and miss him."
"Bye Justin. Oh yeah, congratulation on the game."
"Did you go?" I answered surprised
"No, but me, mom and dad watch it on TV."
"No he wouldn't come out of his room, then after about 10 minutes he left to go out."
"Oh. Alright CJ, see you later. Bye."
"Bye Justin." As I hung up the phone I started crying.
I wanted to get up and walk away. The rain wasn't washing away my problems, and as it started getting stronger I started longing for the cold. As I stood, the remaining energy in my body disappeared and I fell back to the park bench crying.
I only nodded as Kate and Tony approached me. There was hop in Tony's question. "Hey there's a phat party tonight at Mitch's house. Do you want to go?" I just shook my head and walked away. I didn't feel like talking. It had been 7 week now and I had given up being around people. I didn't feel like company anyhow, plus I had to go straight home because my father grounded me for three weeks for running out of the house and talking back to him.
"Justin," I heard them both calling, but I kept on walking.
Suddenly I looked up as the rain started to come down harder. The light above the bench that I was on switched off, followed by another then another then another.
"Justin are you ok?" Mr. Shore asked as the class bell rang signaling the end of class. I just nodded my head as I gathered my books.
"Do you want to talk?" I shook my head no as Alex walked past us.
"Are you sure?" Again I nodded my head yes and walked out of the class, heading right into one of the bathroom stalls. I closed the door and started to cry. After 10 minutes I washed my face and headed to my next class.
Suddenly all of the lights in the park were off, the only remaining light coming from a distant streetlight. The rain intensified.
"Justin, are you hungry sweetheart?" I just shook my head no and started to walk towards my room. My mother gently reached out to me and tried to pull me to her, but I pulled away from her, not wanting to let her get close.
"Justin, I'm sorry. I only want the best for you," was all I heard from my father as I kept walking to my room.
The night was beautiful. The rain looked stunning with the dim light shining through the raindrops. Looking up, it seemed as though I was flying in outer space. It felt unreal and I never wanted it to stop. As I closed my eyes, I took the papers and rolled them up in a ball. Suddenly the rain stopped. When I opened my eyes and looked up I saw an umbrella, as I turned to my left I found myself looking directly at the most striking face I had ever seen. Shocked, I started to get up.
"What's your hurry?" he said as he gently grabbed my arm and pulled me back down to sit with him on the bench. "So what are you doing out in the rain?" he asked. I could only stare. He was beautiful. He looked to be about 20 years old, blond hair, about 6'1 and 175 lbs, with the most astonishing greenish-gray eyes. After a few seconds I caught myself and just looked down at my feet, not wanting to answer. I could feel myself getting aroused I tried to adjust myself.
"It looks like you could use a friend. What's your name?"
"I...I...I'm Justin." I think it was the first time I said anything in three weeks.
"Hi Justin," he said in almost a whisper "I'm Shaun." As he said his name he smiled and I saw his dimples. I suddenly felt myself reacting to him. I never felt anything like that before, not from anyone, not even Brad. It scared me and excited me at the same time. I think he senses my excitement too. He slowly reached out and touched my leg, moving his hand up until he was holding my hardness. I leaned back and arched my back and let out a moan...I felt like I was going to explode. I saw lightning and heard thunder, followed suddenly by voices. My father, Tony, Brad, Alex, Alisa their voices shouting, "Fag! You faggot! You Fucking Queer!"
I had fought the demons and thought I had held them off, but in my darkest hour I had given in. I panicked.
"Get the fuck off of me you fucking faggot!" I yelled as I pushed him off of me. I kept pushing him from the bench until he fell to the ground. As he fell to the ground I hit him over and over on his back as he curled into a ball. I kept on hitting him, all I heard were the voices calling me fag, queer, I kept hitting him and suddenly the only thing I heard was him crying and begging me to stop. The rain was now a downpour. His beautiful blond hair had dirt and mud in it and was now black. His astonishing greenish-gray eyes now had a look of total fear in them and had lost the striking look that he had earlier.
"Please...stop," he said crying between each words, "I'm sorry...I...though you...were...gay." He said crying, " Please...don't kill me...I didn't mean..."He said still crying and now in a fetal position.
I couldn't believe I hit him. What was I doing? I felt ashamed and dirty. I just took off running, the pain becoming too much. I knew now that I was gay for sure, and remembered all the things that people did to Brad, what I did to Brad, how everyone treated and looked at Brad. I now knew what was in store for me. My life as I knew it was over. Just as the moonlight is enveloped when it goes behind a cloud, the true darkness that is myself now totally enveloped me. It was over.