Modern History

A story by David Buffet.  This story may not be copied or distributed without the express written consent of the author. Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.  This story will contain homosexual acts performed among consenting teens.  If reading such a story is illegal where you are, don't.  The author welcomes all constructive email, which should be sent to

You forget what it was like.  When you adults recall your youth, you remember tan skin and friends and carefree summer days and evenings spent wondering how crickets knew to chirp in unison.  You forget.  You remember high school most fondly -- perhaps a play you were in, perhaps a sport.  You remember selected words from that special teacher you had.  You remember a time free from complexity, from caring for your parents, from watching your body succumb to gravity.  And because you think you are wise, you forget.

There were no carefree summer days.  Let me remind you.  There was, most of all, that thing which all of us kids have in common -- the universal experience of adolescence: boredom.  Do you remember boredom?  Yes, I know: now there is too much to do and you wish there were 25 hours in a day. Now time flies for you and you wonder how you could possibly have wasted so much of it.  But do you remember when each second stretched into an eternity?  Do remember a time when your world was confined to how far you could ride your bike?  Do you remember summer evenings?  Really?  When it was light but everything was closed and all that was left was to dream of what it would be like when you could finally get away?

Do you remember friends?  No, I think you don't.  You have forgotten because you have had, for so long, the luxury of picking your friends.  That was not how it used to work when you were young.  You are friends with people now because you find them fascinating.  You are friends now because you share interests.  But you used to be friends with people because you lived near them, or because you were friends with their friends, or worse, your family was friends with their family.  You spent your youth around people you would never have put up with as an adult.  Remember now?  You still don't?  Then let me ask you this: how many of those friends -- the ones you had when you were in high school and for whom you hold such romantic memories -- are still friends now?

And yes, there is the day when the special teacher says the special words.  We know that.  But do you remember the rest of your time spent in school?  Do you remember the hours of just sitting there as they droned on and on?  Do you remember the mind-numbing routine of it all?  Do you remember the quadratic formula?

You are weary of office politics, and long for the days of simplicity.  But you forget.  You forget the map of the cafeteria.  You cannot sit there -- that's where the soccer jocks sit.  And you cannot sit there -- that's for the sophomore girls.  And you do not walk down that aisle if you are an underclassman, or join the black kids if you are white.  You need to avoid that table because you're trying to get that kid sitting there -- a friend since elementary school whom you never liked -- to leave you alone finally.  And you must steer clear of this one because another friend has just confided in you that the center of that clique, the one toward which you've been gravitating for the past month, says he hates you when you're not around.

You smile.  I see it.  You dismiss our cares as inconsequential.  You forget.  Where did you learn how to engage in your office politics in the first place?  Remember now?

I will remind you.  I will tell you a story.  It's not my story.  It is our story.  It is a history -- a modern history.  Perhaps when I am done, you will remember.  You will remember, and you will listen when we talk.

Chris had a secret.  I can't tell you what it is yet.  You'll figure it out.  Benjamin had one too, but everyone had already figured it out.  And Smith had one which even he hadn't figured out.  Perhaps I should not have started my story this way.  Are you getting the impression that they were friends?  They were not.  They knew each other, of course.  In a high school of 1000 kids, you know everyone.  You've known them since kindergarten.  You've been there and done that.  There are no social surprises left in the world of the high school student, only social complications.

All three were smart, though only Benjamin described himself as such.  All three were dedicated and pushed themselves when they saw the value in what they were doing, though only Smith defined himself that way.  All three loathed school, loathed suburbia, loathed their microcosmic society, though only Chris admitted it.  And all three were good looking, though none of them felt it.

We can begin with Chris, since the story begins with Chris.  Here is how you would describe him: he rarely did his homework; he frequently cut class and sometimes school itself.  He wore all black and when his hair wasn't greasy, it was oddly colored.  He was disaffected, you'd say.  He was morbid.  You know the kid?  You'd say he didn't care about anything.

Here is how we would describe Chris: his friends could always count on him to be there for them.  He was always loyal and always trustworthy.  He was murderously funny if you actually listened to what he said.  And he cared about everything, but too much.  What he saw filled him with rage.  The way we would describe Chris is with something you don't see: that he periodically cut himself with a razor blade just to remind himself that pain could also be tangible.

The Assistant Principal knew Chris well.  When Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, looked at the student body, he was proud.  Some kids were smart, some weren't.  Some kids were athletic, some merely creative.  But they were his kids, and they were good kids.  When Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, looked at Chris, slouching sullenly in a chair before him in his office as he was on so many days, he was angry.  Angry?  Angry with a child?  It was born of embarrassment and fear.  Embarrassment because he felt that visitors to his school -- the community of whom he spoke endlessly -- would look at his school and see only Chris.  Fear that other kids would copy him.  These were Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal's two main concerns.  These, and finding the vandal who kept scraping off  the painted `istant' and `ipal' from his door, writing an `e' in the latter's place.

Chris knew Seymour Pine, Ass Prince, well, too.  He knew it didn't matter what he said when he was called to the Ass Prince's office.  He knew he had to listen, to remain calm, to agree to everything the Ass Prince suggested.  And he knew the suggestions didn't matter.  Seymour Pine was not there to protect Chris.  This Chris knew.  Seymour Pine, Ass Prince, was there to protect other kids from Chris.

The Ass Prince had many techniques.  He called Chris' parents, he threatened suspension.  He tried cajoling, shaming, and offers of therapy.  The Ass Prince, as you might imagine, bored Chris.  Bored him to tears.  Well, bored, enraged…it was all the same. 

By the time our story begins, there has already been some change.  Chris has been acting differently, and people have noticed.  Smith has noticed, though from afar.  Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, noticed. Differently?  Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, in an unguarded moment, would say he had found a new way of pissing people off.

It used to be that when Chris and his friends were hanging out, sitting there on the stone wall that ringed the courtyard between two of the school buildings, when passersby would mutter, call, or shout, "faggot" at them, they would stare back sourly but silently.  It used to be that Chris felt entirely unable to respond to the jeers because of his secret.  But that was when Chris cared, and lately, he had not been doing much of that anymore.  You get tired, after a while, you see.  At least Chris had.  He got tired of shame and guilt.  He got exhausted of being afraid.  Well, exhausted...bored.  It was all the same.  He was bored with it.  Deathly, deathly bored.

The stone wall ringing the courtyard between the two buildings was their place to be when not in class -- and sometimes when they were supposed to be in class.  It was not prime property, as hang-outs went.  The wall was uncomfortable to sit on, the courtyard was unlandscaped and unkempt, and there were bugs everywhere.  Chris' friend Rat kept insisting that when they all got sick at the same time the year before, it was because of the bugs.  But it had its benefits.  It was out of the way and far from the more desirable locations of the other groups' hang-outs.  It was far from the gym, and it was far from the office of Seymour Pine, Ass Prince.  People generally avoided that courtyard, preferring the prettier one between the language and science buildings.  That in itself was a benefit.  Mostly there was a single benefit which Chris and all his friends appreciated: it was theirs.

Chris' behavior had definitely changed in the past months.  It was not that he was different than he was -- he had always been himself.  It was more that he had become a magnified version of himself.  His esses, slightly sibilant to begin with, had become serpentine.  His gestures, always large, had become melodramatic.  He had carefully cultivated a caricature, which he presented to the world.  No, presented is the wrong word.  Perhaps I should have said shoved.

Have you guessed Chris' secret?  I told you you would.  One hundred other kids in the school shared it, including Benjamin, and Smith, and most of Chris' friends who hung around the stone wall when they weren't in class and sometimes even when they were supposed to be.  One hundred other kids knew the shame and fear and guilt and rage.  One hundred other kids knew how to hide.  But Chris was different from them too.  By the time our story begins, Chris had reached a new place -- a place where we would finally agree on how to describe him: Christopher had cared so very much and so deeply, he didn't even care anymore.

I warn you -- you will learn something if you read on.  You might find yourself in this story.  It's okay.  I told you, it is not my story, it's ours.  It's a story of people and of change.  There will be a little violence and a lot of pain.  But it is a happy story -- a very happy story, and you will be glad at the ending, if I've done my job.  There's sex in it, too, but not a lot.  Sex is both what the story is about and not what it's about at all.  I'll leave that for you to figure out in your own time.  The story will make you, at parts, happy and sad and wistful and proud, if I tell it right.  I can promise you only one thing: you will not be bored.