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`You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue...
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.
If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now,
There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.'
Daddy (Sylvia Plath, 1961)
Bobby frowned into his bathroom mirror on Friday morning. David Bowie's CD `Heathen' played on the stereo. His tired brain searched for the day's direction. Shrink appointment today instead of school. Hell, no, think of something good, he told himself. Playing Lysander again on stage this evening. He reached for the excitement he usually felt with a performance but couldn't find it. He came up empty.
Bobby studied his reflection and wished he had a cigarette. No, that's not right, he thought, I hate cigarettes. At least, I think I hate them. I'm just not sure. Angel smokes. But then Angel does a lot of things that maybe I don't want to do. He closed his eyes, shutting out the image in the mirror. Shutting off.
Breakfast was always fun. Mom trying to make conversation with the back of Dad's newspaper. Under-cooked bacon. Burnt toast. Runny eggs. Bobby sat slumped in his chair, pushing food around his plate with a fork. Morning light angled in through white curtains onto the polished surface of the table, catching bright on the open jars to prism out a jellied rainbow onto the wall: plum, mint, and apple. His mother coughed delicately, looking over at him. She was so lame.
Bobby looked up from his eggs and into her eyes. She smiled at him, a really fake kind of smile that looked as if she'd just coughed it up. God, I wish I hadn't told them, he thought. I can't believe I did that, that I just...told them. I want to go back and do it over again. And. Not. Tell. Home was like the moon now: cold, dim-lit and lifeless. And it was fucking hard to breathe.
Mom smiled again and spoke through her mask. "Are you looking forward to Sunday night with Alison?"
Bobby pushed the last of the eggs into the mint jelly on his plate. His father had put down the newspaper. Bobby looked up from the plate. His father's narrowed eyes looked dark, almost black. His lips were pressed tightly together.
"Um, Mom, I don't even know Alison."
"I know, dear, but she's a nice girl and you'll have a good time. You should take her to a movie. Would you like to call her to find out what she wants to see?"
Dad watched. He's been watching me since I told him, thought Bobby. Staring at me but saying nothing. Saying nothing at all. Not once since Tuesday night, not once, has he said a single word to me. His son isn't queer, that much he had communicated. He was communicating that right now, in fact. Watching me. Bobby's mother spoke again.
"Oh, honey, I almost forgot! We went looking online for some help for you, I mean, well, you know, some...well...information." Her face looked as if a cockroach had crawled into her food and she was trying to make the best of it. Unwilling to say anything, unwilling to stir things up. Mom always said that. `Let's don't stir things up.'
That's exactly what Bobby had done Tuesday night. He'd stirred things up. Just a couple of words, really. Those same words were on the cover of an old Time magazine that Angel had, along with a picture of Ellen Degeneres. Apparently, it was a big deal back then when she said it. It was still a big fucking deal; so much so that when Bobby said it to his parents, when he said those couple of words, The Sky Fell In.
Mom was rummaging around in her piles of paper on the kitchen counter. She suddenly held up a folder in triumph, smiling that plastic smile.
She brought the folder over to the table, brushing aside the debris of breakfast. She laid it open in front of him. He looked at her and down to the sheaf of printouts inside. Bright colors. `Tired of the Confusion?' asked one. "Who can blame you?' it answered; and on another, `I think I might be gay...' with a picture of smiling teen boys. Bobby sifted through the pages.
"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:21-23 NIV)"
`A Parent's Guide To Preventing Homosexuality'
`Change IS possible...discover how!'
`Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.'
Bobby looked up from the printouts to his mother's nervous face. His thoughts were confused, a jumble of images. He felt his father's eyes boring into him. Bobby was breathing faster; rapid, shallow breaths. Ryan's face last night in the parking lot. `Faggot.' Angel in the wings: half-undressed, erect and arching back his slender neck. Jaye naked in his bed last summer, laughing, eyes dancing. His father's voice on Tuesday night, `Goddam queer.' The kitchen air felt thin.
Bobby looked down and read.
"Everyone is on a journey to find out who they really are. You are not the only one. There are so many messages out there. Different voices yell what's right and what's wrong. They try to tell you who you are and who you should be. It can be loud, chaotic and confusing."
Welcome to Exodus International.
Gene crushed out his cigarette and walked back to the debate room, leaving Angel against the wall outside the building. Friday mornings were a bitch during debate season. Half a day at school then long drives or flights to the weekend's tournament in some damn prep school. His new partner, Matthew, wasn't due in town for another week so Gene was debating maverick this weekend, which just made it worse. He loved debate but didn't love it as much on Friday mornings. He really needed some caffeine. Time for a Dr. Pepper. He jingled the coins in his pocket, feeling for quarters. The cell phone in his pocket buzzed, tickling his thigh.
"Yo." Michael of course. Gene shook his head, smiling.
"You're a sick puppy, you do know that don't you, Michael?" Gene said to the phone while he pulled evidence folders out to sort. He had a new case to fine tune before the first round at six tonight. He had a decent chance of qualifying for state this weekend if he could get this new affirmative case ready. Why did Michael always call when he was trying to work? It could be oh-dark-hundred and Michael would still show up to chat. He laughed to himself.
"Yeah, yeah" said Michael. "What're you up to?"
"My weapons of mass destruction case is here in front of me in forty different folders and I have maybe two hours before we leave. So whatever it is, Mikey, the answer is no." Gene grinned as he spoke into the mic cord, shuffling rapidly through evidence cards. He heard Michael laughing and the sound of a car engine shutting off.
"Hey, Mike, you're not at school yet are you?"
The other boy chuckled. "Gene, I'm five seconds from you. And I have chocolate sprinkled doughnuts and two mocha lattes. So, shut up. And DON'T call me Mikey, dammit!"
"Debate geek," countered Michael. Gene laughed.
"Just get that go-juice in here before I hurt you, Mikey. I was just about to murder someone for a DP."
"Fuck you, Gene." Michael said into the phone mic as he pushed open the door with his foot, his hands full. Gene looked up at Michael's sleepy green eyes.
"Uh-huh. Hand over the coffee, dumbass, it's too early for your shit. I had maybe four hours sleep last night and this crap isn't gonna sort itself."
Michael set the box down and carefully moved neat stacks of folders over to create a bare space on the worktable. The debate coach was out of his office and they were alone in the debate room. It was fairly spare with shelves along two walls filled with recent trophies and four long tables down the center. The only decoration other than tournament notices and flyers from debate camps was the frayed `Bladerunner' movie poster that Michael had tacked to one wall last year. That and two dusty fake plants from some stupid school function. Debaters have no sense of style, thought Michael, for the thousandth time. Gene was sucking down hot coffee through the open cup lid and rummaging around in the doughnut box. Gene's expression was so typical, the debater had never been much of a morning person.
"Okay, jockstrap, where're the twists?"
"They were out, Gene, so shut the fuck up about it and take one. Show some appreciation for my efforts, why dontcha?" Michael pulled a chair around and sat backwards in it, facing Gene's tidy piles of work, and reached for a doughnut. Gene smacked his hand away with a smile and leaned back, holding aloft a doughnut loaded with chocolate sprinkles.
"Ahhh, chocolate doughnuts and Starbuck's. The breakfast of champions. You're a prince, Mikey."
"Yanno what, Gene? I can take these somewhere they'll be appreciated" Michael said with a grin. "And that would be just about anywhere but here, I'm thinking."
Gene put down his coffee and faced Michael. He leaned in and lightly kissed Michael's lips, and then pulled back. Michael blushed.
With a shy smile Michael said, "You're such a bastard, Gene."
Gene grinned. "Dumb jock."
Michael rolled his eyes. "Don't push your luck."
Bobby hunched down in the psychiatrist's padded leather chair, his hands thrust in pockets. A small black tape recorder sat on the desk beside him. The woman sitting across from him was at least fifty and wore a navy silk suit, her gray hair twisted into a loose chignon. She took no notes, merely watching Bobby as the tape captured their session. There wasn't much on it so far. He was having trouble organizing any of his feelings into sentences beyond the idea that he didn't want to be there. That message, she'd gotten right away. This was completely his parents' idea. She sighed.
"Bobby, maybe we can try to start again with how you feel about your father."
He stared at the floor without speaking.
"Bobby, why do you think you're here?"
"I understand that you think you're gay."
Bobby sat up in the chair, pulling his hands out of his pockets and crossing them over his chest, eyes still downcast. He frowned.
"I don't think I'm gay. I am."
She nodded. "Tell me what you're feeling right now."
He snorted. "I'm feeling that this whole thing is a waste of time. I'm gay and my parents don't like it. That's too bad but that's how it is."
"Why do you think your parent's don't like it?"
"Do they often `not like' things about you?"
He shifted in the chair.
"I guess. I dunno."
Bobby spoke slowly. "Well, okay, I dunno. I mean...okay, no, usually they don't really care. I mean they care but they don't mind. I mean it's usually okay. Whatever I do. I mean...I guess they love me and all that type of stuff."
She paused and then spoke. "Bobby, do you have trouble sleeping?"
He looked up sharply but said nothing.
"Bobby? Can you sleep?"
He looked at his folded arms and took a breath.
"Bobby? How did you sleep last night?"
He shook his head without looking up.
"Alright, Bobby, let's talk about your father. How do you think he feels about you right now?"
He glanced up at her with a scowl.
"Do you think he's worried about you?"
"Do you think your father is worried about you, Bobby?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Do you think your father has a reason to be worried right now?"
Bobby watched his sneakers as he pushed them back and forth across the thick carpet pile.
"Bobby, do you know any other boys your age who think they might be gay?"
He jerked his head towards her and exhaled hard.
"Bobby..." her voice dropped low, intimate. "How did you sleep last night, Bobby?"
He lowered his eyes in silence.
"Bobby..." Her voice was very soft and gentle. "How do you feel right now, Bobby?"
Tears filled his eyes. He slid further down in the chair without looking at her.
"Bobby...when was the last time you felt happy?"
A sob choked up from his throat and he stifled it. Tears formed in his eyes and he felt so angry, so weak and so angry. And he felt...
"Scared. I'm...I'm scared" he whispered. "I'm really, really scared."
Bobby buried his face in the leather of the chair and cried.
"I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T.S. Eliot, 1917)
Fridays in Drama Major Studies during a performance week were always disorganized; a charged kind of madness, and today was no exception. Techies crawled out on beams to adjust lights and had periodic sound checks that echoed strangely through the empty house of the theatre. Actors paced the stage, talking to themselves and counting steps to each mark, ignoring the chaos around them. Lisa and Lori sat cross-legged in the wings, stage left, their laps full of gauzy costumes, needle and scissors in hand. Suspended over it all, in the back of the house, the tech booth was crowded with techies talking through headsets to their compatriots scattered around the theatre. John, also with a headset, moved in and out of the bustle, unobtrusive and quiet. Ms. Robi held court in the drama room, ringed by teenagers lying against one another on the floor, a few in chairs.
Angel finished his cigarette alone in silence, eyeing the drama ducks, after Gene left the smoking area. He was a little tired lately of people and their attitudes. Gene was hard to figure out, though, and Angel wondered what Gene really thought of him. Not that it mattered. Gene the Machine. He always seemed so aloof and unruffled, as if nothing really bothered him or, more likely, he just didn't care about any one around him. Most of the debaters were a little like that; a little distant, always a little preoccupied.
Angel had played Spades for hours with some of them through endless after school hours but couldn't really say he was close to any debater. Cigarette breaks and Spades didn't entirely make up for other differences. Debaters and drama kids just weren't the same species. Gene could get under his skin, though, with just a look, raising that Spock eyebrow and smiling. Made him feel like he was under a microscope, made him nervous. Gene was such a jerk. Blushing, he remembered last night's dream and flicked away his cigarette. Time to go in.
Angel walked through the drama room, past the kids surrounding Ms. Robi attentively, and out into the shop. The loading bay door was up, letting in the early sunshine. Trey, wearing safety goggles, leaned over Anthony, showing him how to run the large saw. The noise was tremendous, stopping and starting, a bright whir. Angel could tell Tony wasn't paying close attention. He kept pressing back into Trey and trying to wiggle, unobtrusively, a smile on his lips. Trey ignored him. There was nothing funny about safe shop procedures. Jenny held the long board Trey was working on, shaking her head occasionally at Anthony. Boys.
Angel went into the boys' dressing room, looking for someplace quiet, not an easy thing to find during the run of a show. Flicking on the makeup lights, he looked at the chairs lined against the mirrored cabinet, pulled one out and sat down heavily. Angel sighed. His reflection looked a little tired. Too many things happening, too many things always happening, and then there were those damn dreams. He thought of Bobby, wondering whether he'd seen that stupid shrink yet. I hate parents, thought Angel. Although he really didn't, his Mom was cool...for a Mom. He remembered his father and gave a slight shudder. Angel shook his head to clear it, black hair falling over his face. He leaned down onto his arms, against the countertop, and closed his eyes.
Angel heard a faint noise and sat up, looking around him. The noise came again: a muffled thump and what sounded like a gasp. Angel smiled and stood up, listening intently. A low moan was quickly hushed. Angel grinned, feeling his groin respond. Curious, and feeling the first tingle of arousal, Angel slipped softly through the dressing area and into the showers, alert and watchful.
The area seemed empty until he reached the showers, each stall separated by a tile partition. He remembered Jaye on his knees after dress rehearsal and felt himself grow harder, his cock lengthening, pressing tight against his jeans. He moved further in and looked into the last shower stall.
Doug had little Camille flat against the wall, her hands under his and held high against the tiles. Neither face was visible. Her long black skirt was hiked up and Doug was between her raised legs, his pants pushed down to his ankles, thrusting into her. His short black hair glistened with sweat as his bottom clenched into each forward movement, thrusting again and again.
God, Doug had a gorgeous ass, thought Angel, unable to stop his hand from reaching to the front of his jeans. Angel stroked himself through the denim; his mind gone blank, eyes focused on the lovers. Camille let out another low moan and writhed, pulling her legs higher and wrapping her feet around Doug's back, pressing up his shirt, baring more of his flesh. A trail of fine hair between those smooth cheeks drew Angel's eye. Magnetic, Doug's tight bottom looked inviting: gleaming with sweat, muscles clenching and relaxing in a rapid, slowly increasing rhythm. Camille moaned again and Doug's pace quickened. Breaths rapid, Angel squeezed and stroked himself, perversely enjoying the feel of constriction in his jeans.
With a soft cry, Doug thrust hard once into Camille and shuddered, shoving her up against the tile wall with his larger body. Her legs tightened around his back as she pulled him closer in climax. Doug held still inside her, panting, sweat dripping from his hair and skin, as the shocks passed through his body.
Suddenly embarrassed, Angel pulled silently back and hesitated. Still painfully hard and breathing fast, he opened the door and left the now quiet dressing room. He stood in the shop, trying to slow his ragged breathing, watching Anthony still snuggling back against an oblivious Trey in front of the jigsaw table. Tony saw Angel looking and winked.
This really was one hell of a confusing Friday.
"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid."
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T.S. Eliot, 1917)
Bobby sat slumped into the sofa in his parent's living room, watching the television without expression, seeing nothing. His mother moved around in the kitchen, making little domestic sounds that he normally wouldn't notice. He noticed everything today. This house, his home since birth, felt foreign; a wasteland where familiar things cast unfamiliar shadows.
His Dad was home, Bobby knew. It was as if he were holding his breath, as if he were nervous not knowing where, exactly, his father was in the house, as if he needed to be on guard in some inexplicable way. His father had never been violent, this feeling was irrational, he told himself. And still he felt tense. The TV screen flickered in his vision but he couldn't have said what it was that he was watching.
A shadow fell across Bobby and his father stood in front of him, blocking the television screen but he knew better than to object. He slowly looked up into his father's face. His father regarded him silently, his face unreadable. Bobby hesitated, then spoke.
The older man studied him impassively, standing legs-apart in military fashion, hands behind his back. Bobby remembered when he was little, before his father had retired from service, and how, without fail, he'd always come to his son's room and said goodnight. It was the last thing he knew before sleep took him and had been so comforting. When was the last time he did that, wondered Bobby. When did I get to be too old, too grownup?
"Dad? I'm sorry if I've...disappointed you. I..." he stared into his father's eyes, looking for something, "Dad, I love you." He finished simply. His father didn't answer, didn't change his expression.
Bobby stood up, in front of his father. He'd once thought of him as so very tall but now Bobby actually had to look down to his father. He winced, wondering if he'd been wrong to stand. Their eyes met.
Nothing in his father's face or body changed, it was as if he hadn't spoken.
"Dad? Please, Dad?"
His father's body grew tense and his breathing changed, coming a little faster, his face flushed as his gaze grew steely. The older man drew a deep breath and pulled back, eyes narrowing at his son. His father's face seemed to change as he stared into Bobby's eyes.
Without a word, he pulled back and struck Bobby hard across the face with his open hand, knocking the boy aside and against the sofa. Without any further indication of interest, he turned from his son, who was shaking on the floor, and left. Bobby heard the door to his father's study close quietly. He was dazed, breathing rapidly. His shoulders shook and his hands trembled as he raised them to his face.
He hit me, thought Bobby numbly. No, he didn't `hit' me, he...slapped me. He slapped his son's face.
His father couldn't possibly have expressed his contempt more clearly. Bobby's chest felt as if it were a rock, solid and painful inside him. He leaned into the sofa and cried, hard and from the heart, for the second time that day.
Later, Bobby lay across his bed surrounded by the printouts his mother had given him, reading erratically, skipping from page to page, section to section. He thoughts felt vague, his mind a kind of white blank. I really could use a cigarette, he thought. Angel sometimes leaves a pack in the bedside drawer but he hadn't been here in over a week. Bobby had money but couldn't even imagine the energy it might take to dress, get in his car and drive to the 7-11. He wasn't even sure he had the strength to get up and go to the toilet. He really needed to take a piss but his arms and legs felt heavy, weak. He pushed the printouts around, reading bits of advice from each but nothing coherent, nothing complete. One offered the thought, `I always want the other guys and men to notice me...'
`Wanting to be noticed by men may simply be a matter of wanting to know that you are accepted by them, that you are OK. Perhaps your father didn't live with you, or was too busy with work to pay much attention to you. Perhaps you feel that you can't get his approval no matter how hard you try. Maybe he called you names and pushed you around. Whatever the case, if your dad didn't tell you that you mattered, that you are important to him, it's no surprise that you want men to notice you.' Bobby frowned and shifted on the bed.
` If there's a dad-shaped space in your heart that hasn't been filled, face that pain with someone you trust. It is not wrong to look for some attention, we all need it. Find healthy, godly, men and women who will accept you and treat you with respect.' Bobby exhaled and pulled another sheet to him. Why did these people all have to sound so polite?
`When you really badly want a man to hug you or hold you close, don't panic and think that you might be gay. Check out what you are feeling and what you really need. Don't sell your soul for a moment of closeness.' Bobby closed his eyes and lay down on the pillow. He wasn't even sure he believed in a soul, not in his own soul anyway. What did all this shit mean? He pushed himself up reluctantly and went into his bathroom, turning on the light automatically.
He finished and flushed, closing the lid and sitting down. Bobby stared at the white tiles and fluffy blue bathmat. His brain seemed to wander, picking at thoughts listlessly.
He looked up at the small clock on the wall. How long had he been sitting here? He felt a drowsy sort of confusion, a lethargy that filled his limbs and heart and mind. He had a funny feeling, a funny sort of pleasure in doing nothing, thinking nothing. He felt as if someone else was directing his body, as if he was on some kind of autopilot. He looked down at what he'd picked up from the counter.
An amber plastic bottle of sleeping pills, almost full.
Is an Art, like everything else."
Lady Lazarus (Sylvia Plath, 1961)
[End of Part 5]
Thanks again for your support! I'm still learning and all of you are helping me even if it's just by reading Drama Club or joining the list, but the emails really keep me going TragicRabbit11@aol.com
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