"Save Or Sacrifice 4"
The realization of love doesn't really sweep you off of your feet like you would think it would. It doesn't show itself right away, and it doesn't give you this euphoric moment where you can choose to accept it or not. No....it sneaks up on you, slowly, stealthily, silent. It burrows its way under your skin and sits proudly in your bloodstream just waiting for you to find it. Like a sickness, infecting your emotions while you walk around wondering why you're feeling so weird and why you can't get back to being 'you' again. Then...once you discover what it is that's making you act so strange...it's already too late to cure yourself of the disease. Because it's already spread to every part of your body. Multiplying like a fucking virus that you can't control. By the time you find it you're stuck with it forever. And it HURTS! GOD, it hurts! How in the hell did I end up in THIS predicament! I just found my virus, and now I don't know WHAT to do with it. Things just got a lot harder than they were supposed to be.
Ben filled my thoughts all through dinner, all the time that I was trying to concentrate on my homework, invaded me as I tried to 'toss and turn' myself to sleep, haunted me in my dreams, and then again as I opened my eyes the next morning. It wouldn't stop. And the more I needed him...the more I realized how much he DIDN'T want me...which only made me want him more. Which, of course, reminded me how much it hurt that he had left me to die here all alone without looking back. It created this empty void inside of me where his friendship once was...and it was spreading fast. Eating away at me like a cancer as I thought back to every moment I took for granted. Every smile that I didn't appreciate to its fullest potential. And every opportunity that I had to realize what I felt for him but never let it come to fruition. All because I was too damn STUPID to see it when I had the chance! Self punishment....it can be a real bitch sometimes.
I spent the day, tapping my pen on my notebook, literally shaking inside. Wondering what kind of reaction I was going to have once I saw Ben again. Wondering if it would be different somehow, now that I knew the truth. What if it hurt a hundred times worse now to have him not talk to me? What if the pain would be too much for me to handle this time around? What if I became a blithering idiot in front of him and broke down into a fit of abnormal behavior that I couldn't protect myself against? I didn't know WHAT to expect! But as the minutes ticked by on that clock, I got closer and closer to finding out. I probably just should have ditched the meeting and gone home. Instead, my curiousity of the situation caused me to go. I'll have to admit...it would plague me FOREVER until I knew for sure.
I could feel my breath getting caught up in my throat as I left my last class, ready to walk the 'last mile' to our afterschool meeting. It was the last time my perception would ever be the same concerning him. I just knew, through and through, that things would change forever once I saw him again. And walking into that classroom, sitting at a desk and waiting for him to show up...I was right. The transformation of what I knew to be a new concrete reality had begun.
"Hahaha! Oh SICK! I can't believe you said that!" Ben's voice entered the room before he did. The light pitch of it still carrying with it that boyish charm that I used to love so much. My eyes fixed themselves on the door as he walked in with his new 'friend' right behind him. The two of them laughing...talking...sharing. It made me understand just how thin the line between envy and hatred really was, seeing this new boy take my place at Ben's side.
"Ah, you liked it!" He said, and Ben smiled.
"Well...I didn't say I didn't LIKE it! I said you were sick!" Ben was smiling and just....just...being 'happy'. Happy. While I went from confusion, to anger, to depression, and back to confusion again. I should have followed my instincts. I should have forgotten about this meeting and let my mind settle into what I was feeling before seeing him face to face. Him and his 'friend' there...two against one. I know I'm selfish, but I don't care. All I know is that it hurts.
Other kids came in, saying hello to me or trying to engage in some small talk, but all I could do was look across the room and watch the one boy who had suddenly become my whole world share himself with someone else. I saw in him what I saw the first day he walked into that room. The sweet virginal baby brown eyed boy whose smile could stop the rain if it dare fall on his one man parade. It wasn't so much a sexual attraction, although I felt that too. It was more of a true connection. Where I felt like I could speak half a sentence and know that he could finish it effortlessly, word for word, just from what he knew about me. Where I could think something in the back of my mind, and he'd be able to read the message through the shine in my eyes. The only problem was...this other boy in the classroom had taken up residence in his heart where I should be, and he was quickly becoming the proverbial 'mud on my windshield'. I needed Ben...but it didn't look like he needed ME anymore. So what reason would he have to take me back now? None. Not a one.
"Ok everybody, I'm sorry I'm late." Mr. Harris set his books down on the desk and I could already tell that this was probably going to be a class participation day by the tone of his voice. Better that then pairing us off. I couldn't take that today. "Today...we're going to have a discussion about 'the closet', ok?" The class kinda groaned at the idea. I guess they were looking forward to just having an open homeroom so we could talk and fool around for a bit. But Mr. Harris was definitely all about having structured group discussions every now and then. More for us than for him. "Groan, groan, bitch, whine.....I know, I know. Just scoot up here in a semi circle and turn your brains on for a little while. Humor me, alright?" He said with his pattented smile. I watched everyone move their desks around to get ready for the conversation, and paid particular attention to Ben. Who, by the way, hadn't even looked in my direction yet. Him and Mr. Perfect over there. I saw the other boy playfully bump into Ben on purpose, making him laugh. Then brush his hand across Ben's ass as he bent over to move his desk.
"Stop it!" Ben giggled, and the two boys made sure to get themselves a nice edge of the circle where they could sit close together. Seeing that...just made the 'void' in my chest spread out even faster, weighing me down to the floor with more hurtful emotion than I was prepared for. It was like I wanted to cry, but couldn't find the ability. Couldn't find the USE. The tears got blocked up at the gates, and refused to express themselves. How's THAT for heartache? Even my own TEARS didn't think I was worth being free of the pain I had caused.
"Before we start, how many of you guys in here are still 'in the closet'? By your own definition, of course." Both Ben and his friend raised their hands, along with a few other people in the room. I wasn't sure how people perceived me personally, but I figured that I was basically a closet case myself. Not quite in, not quite out. I raised my hand to state my position. "Ok, so quite a few of you. And that's understandable. It can be difficult trying to share this very personal part of yourself with other people. Especially when it's frowned upon in many cultures and societies..." The lecture went on, and Mr. Harris delivered it with his usual knowledge, flare, and sense of humor. And yet, it fell on deaf ears as far as I was concerned this time. "Corey?" He asked, and I snapped back into the conversation immediately.
"Huh?" I said. "Sorry."
"You still with us?" He smiled.
I hesitated with an answer, only taking a split second glance at Ben before saying, "Um....no, actually. You know what? I should...I should go."
"Are you feeling ok?" Mr. Harris looked concerned, and I saw Ben look over at me for the first time that afternoon. Not with any sort of promise in his gaze, but a look nonetheless.
"I'm ok. I just...I need to go. I don't think...I don't think I wanna be here right now." Thoughts of Ben flooded my mind. His anger and his smile alternating with each second. Memories of our little personal history, mixed with imaginary thoughts of him and this new boy possibly finding in each other what I was too late to figure out. My insides began to rot away, and the emotion hit me with the force of a truck all at once. My heart felt distorted all of the sudden, bent and twisted out of shape until the pain of it was too much to embrace anymore. I began to hurriedly pack up my backpack, not caring if my papers got wrinkled or smashed in the process. And as I got closer to leaving, those defiant tears of mine that were so stubborn a moment ago...suddenly came to the surface. They wet my eyes up to the point of blurring my vision, and all I could think of was getting out of that room before they began to rain down.
"Corey....?" Mr. Harris stopped the lesson, stepping forward to see what was wrong with me. But I JUST wanted out! This was worse than I thought it would be. He was gone. I had lost him forever. He would NEVER have anything to do with me ever again! I fucked up! And life was going to be a VERY lonely persuit from here on out. Because I doubt I'll ever find someone who means that much to me ever again. Ever. "Listen, can we talk for a minute alone?" Mr. Harris said softly.
But it only made things worse, because now the whole class was watching. "No..." I sobbed, my breath catching, and the first two rivers of tears finally gliding down my cheeks. I couldn't hold them back anymore. I was CRYING! Right here in front of EVERYBODY! And the humiliation of it all only helped to force the tears out in buckets as my heart collapsed in on itself. The pain was UNBEARABLE! I could hardly breathe. "I'm fine..." I lied. Everything ached inside, and I was actually crying in soft whimpers at this point as I violently shoved my bag full of books. Anything to get out of there. Anything to escape this pain. I didn't want this to happen. I didn't want to break down in front of them. CERTAINLY not in front of Ben! But my body was on cruise control at the moment, and I couldn't stop crying if I wanted to.
I shot up from my seat, wiping my eyes, and charged for the door. Embarrassed, heartbroken, emotions mercilessly shattered by someone so beautiful to me that I couldn't even find the ability to be mad at him for causing it. All that blame....and nowhere to direct it but back at myself. I was almost weak with sobs by the time I had closed the classroom door behind me. This love revelation was too much for me to deal with...and I wanted to die. For a split second, I really wanted to DIE.
I felt dead inside anyway. Might as well let the rest of me catch up.
I got on a bus to take me home before my most toxic emotions overflooded and caused me to burst. But the bus wasn't going fast enough to outrun the misery. I felt the emptiness in my chest expanding at lightning speed, bringing with it a cold shiver that threatened to freeze my heart solid for good. I swear, it felt like it would never beat again. The tears began to squeeze their way through my tightly clenched eyes. Short gasps for air squeezed through my tightly clenched teeth. It was like missing your last chance to get off of a deserted island. KNOWING that he could have 'saved' you...if only you had been good enough to be worthy of his attention. If only you could have stopped being selfish long enough to show him that you cared. I couldn't stop crying. I TRIED, but my eyes betrayed me every time. Then I looked over and saw an older woman staring at me out of the corner of her eye. When she realized that I had seen her, she turned her head the other way as though it didn't happen. But I knew she saw me cry, and I was embarrassed. Wonderful...NOW I'm crying in front of little old ladies too. It was even more degrading than it was cryng in front of my class. So I grabbed my stuff up and went to go sit at the very back of the bus where nobody could see me. Well...see me CLEARLY, anyway. And I turned my head to the window as my stomach tightened up, forcing the tears out of me in a fit of dry heaves. I could feel the heat of my cheeks, blazing hot as I fought them back, but nothing would work. Nothing could help me. And I had to finally cover my face with my hands and just let out some of this frustration and misery before the pressure caused me to pop. I'm sure people were looking, listening, maybe even wanting to find out if I was ok. But I didn't WANT any help. I didn't want any comfort. I didn't want any sympathy. I just wanted to get home and stay to myself until my body decided whether it wanted to live another day....or shut itself down. Scary thoughts...made 'not so scary' by the hollow shell of my chest, where echoes of Ben's laughter were still ringing strong. I couldn't believe that I was going through all this in public. Disgraced in front of strangers. The perfect end to the perfect day.
The first few hours that I spent alone, once I got home, I had only said a brief hello to my mother. Then I headed straight for my room and sat on the floor, leaning against my bed. I think it was the constant fluctuation between anger and pain that kept the tears flowing as long as they did. With my feelings of wanting to sadly crawl under the bed and fade away, balanced out only by wanting to rip my own hair out by the roots for being stupid. I wanted to throw myself around that room in a fucking frenzied whirlwind until my bruised and battered body could no longer survive it. Back and forth, back and forth...both sides just wanting to be free of this agony. While love kept pulling me right back into the quicksand. Allowing me to sink down to my neck and no further, immobilizing me but refusing to swallow me up once and for all. I've never known anything that hurt this much.
A doorbell rang, and my mother let whoever it was into the house. It was stupid to think it, but a part of me wanted it to be Ben, tapping at my door like he had before all this craziness happened. How cool would THAT be? Affected by my actions in class today...maybe Ben would come to see if I was ok. Maybe he'd give me a break. He'd come in my room, plop down on the bed, ask if I was alright, and we'd be buds again. Easily, instantly, efficently.......not possible, is it? Not even a little bit. I heard my mom's gentle knock at my door, and quickly got off the floor to sit in my computer chair to turn the other way so she couldn't see my face. "Yeah?"
"Corey, someody is here to see you." She said, peeking her head in.
"O-o-k, thanks..." I said, holding in my sniffles.
I straightened up as best as I could, and worked out the wrinkles in my clothes. Then, with a quick check of my hair in the mirror and drying the leftover traces of my anguish from my eyes, I walked out to the living room.
"Mr. Harris?" I asked, seeing him standing there by himself. "What are you doing here?"
He said it more for my mom, than for me. "Actually, I was looking to do some extra activities for some of the students, and I thought maybe you could help me out with them." What activities? He didn't have any.....ohhhhh....'activities'. "You mind if talk to you in private about it for a few minutes?" He offered.
"Ummm...sure. Yeah. Do you...you wanna come in here or..."
"How about we go for a short walk instead? Hmmm?"
"UM, ok. Just let me put some shoes on." I told him, and minutes later, we were both outside, walking the neighborhood sidewalk for a talk that was a long time coming.
When we got about a block away, Mr. Harris said, "I hope I'm not overstepping any bounds as a teacher by coming to your house, but you looked like you needed a friend."
"I think I need more than that. I think I need a miracle." I said, eyes dropped down to my feet the entire time. "You know that 'problem' that I was having before? That...'thing' we talked about?"
"Between you and Ben."
"Yeah." I replied. "Well...things have gotten a bit...more complicated since then."
"I see..." He nodded. "I'm willing to bet that I can guess where this is going."
"No offense, sir, but I doubt it. Not this time. Even I didn't see this com...."
"You're in love with Ben." He said before I could finish my sentence.
"Then again...maybe you understand the situation just fine." How in the hell did he DO that?
"I could tell. Actually, you've been heading in this direction for quite some time now, by my judgement."
I gave him a look. "Why didn't you say something earlier?"
"Well, Cory, it wasn't for me to say. A big part of love is appreciation, and no one can be 'told' that part. They just have to 'know' it." He said. "Each person has to realize love for themselves. In their own way, in their own time. That's what makes it so special."
"'Special'...right. I'm sure it would have been if I didn't screw everything up." The words had been clawing their way to the surface for a while, hoping to find some kind of real answer in all this, and I finally asked the question. "Do you...do you wanna know what happened?"
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"I kinda....want to." I said softly, and he gave me the nod to begin. So I told him. I told him the whole sordid story, gory details and all, from beginning to end. I attempted to get every bit of that emotional venom out of my system as I did my best to explain what had taken place. From that first dance, to Ben and Chandler trading phone numbers, to the three of us hanging out as friends. From the mindblowing sex to the heartbreaking shouting matches, from wanting Chandler every minute of the day to wanting Ben for the rest of my life. It's strange how telling a story like this outloud can truly make it even more disgustingly wicked than it already was. But I didn't hold back, and I told Mr. Harris the complete and total truth. I guess you could say it was my last ditch attempt at some sort of salvation from all of this. "....So...that's what happened. I HATE myself for it, but I can't take it back. And now all I can think about is how I'll never be able to fix things ever again."
Mr. Harris sort of let out a long sigh, seemingly as lost as I was on what to do or say about it all. "Well...it certainly does explain an awful lot about what's been going on with you two lately. The problem is...this isn't neccessarily something that you can 'fix', Cory."
"Come on, Mr. Harris, I SAID I was sorry. I'm so soooo sorry! I would do anything to make him see that."
"It's not so much a matter of you being 'sorry', kiddo." He said. "You betrayed his trust. Even if he let this particular situation slide...it wouldn't be easy for him to believe in you like he used to." I knew he could see the look on my face, and I could feel my heartbeat turn cold all oer again. "I know it's an awful thing to hear, Cory, and I'm sorry. But repairing something like this takes time."
"Sighhhhh....I know. I just..." I felt my eyes water up. "...I miss him, you know? My life has been so empty since he stopped talking to me. There's this huge part of me missing, and I never realized how much he meant to me until he was gone. I swear...I'd sacrifice everything to have him be a part of my life again."
"Well, let me ask you this?" He said. "Are you in love with Chandler?"
"I don't know. I thought I was. He was cute, and funny, and sweet, and smart...he flirted with me all the time. I was drawn in by him and it felt good inside. You know? Then when he....'made his move'...I kinda got swept up in it all." Then I looked up at him to make sure he understood, "But I NEVER meant to hurt Ben, Mr. Harris! Not ever!"
"You didn't mean to 'hurt' him...or you didn't mean to get caught hurting him?"
I lowered my eyes again. "I guess...a bit of both." Another stray tear fell down my cheek, and I tried to wipe it away before Mr. Harris saw it. I didn't want him worrying about me breaking down again. "I really wanted to be with Chandler, he really made me feel alive, and sexy, and totally in love for a while. But...but..."
"...But it wasn't worth really hurting somebody you cared about. Somebody who cared so much about you." He said.
"No...it wasn't. Not at all."
We walked in silence for almost a half block, and I wasn't sure what exactly I was looking for. A solution? An end? A new beginning? I don't know for sure. All I knew was that someone was helping me to bare the brunt of this conflict for the moment, and it made me feel better. If only slightly. Then I asked him, closing my eyes while waiting for what might be the LEAST wanted answer in all this. "There's no way he's ever gonna forgive me for this. Is there?" I said sadly, now letting two streams of tears crawl down my cheeks and leaving them there without shame.
"I'm afraid it's up to Ben to answer that question now, Cory." He handed me a kleenex out of his pocket for my eyes. Then he bent down a bit to look at me eye to eye while lifting my chin. "But there is something special there between you two. There always has been. Neither one of you share it completely with anyone else in that class, and I know because I've been watching. There is a true connection there, something invisible, but it's real. And if you believe in that love strongly enough, there's a possibility that it can conquer almost anything."
"I'd be lying if I said that my track record, or anyone elses for that matter, is 100 percent foolproof when it comes to testing love's boundaries. But a relationship isn't about statistics, it's about faith. And chances are, if you remain true to your feelings...Ben will be able to see in you that same boy that he fell in love with not so long ago." He told me. "I know that love hurts, sometimes it hurts a lot...but it can do some amazing things for people, believe me."
I couldn't say that I was believing in the sudden reconcilliation between me and Ben. I couldn't even say that I believed he'd ever stop hating me, much less like me again. But somehow, I found the courage to maybe give it one last chance. "I'll try...but it's not gonna work."
"You let 'time' and 'effort' worry about whether or not it's gonna work. Just keep your chin up, and do what you can. Ok?"
"I suppose..." I mumbled.
"Good." He said, and gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder as we turned the corner to circle back towards my house.
Mr. Harris and I talked a bit more on the walk home. A comforting 'father-son-type' discussion, and he helped me to understand my feelings a bit better than I did before. It wasn't the most flattering way to look at myself. In fact it was pretty damn rotten. But getting a better glimpse at the situation from a different angle helped. And instead of guilt and despair...I found the courage to fess up to what I did to that poor kid, and take whatever blows he decides to throw my way. I couldn't say that I didn't deserve it. Having the boy you love, sleep with the other boy you love...that had to kill him inside. I probably wouldn't have even come out of it THAT well if it had happened to me. In fact, I might have grabbed the closest sharp object next to me and murdered them both! He was being a real soldier about it, and I guess I owe him an outlet for whatever anger and rage he was holding back from me. So, tomorrow, that's exactly what I'm gonna do. I'm going to give him the chance to get rid of as much of this emotional venom in HIS system, as I did from telling Mr. Harris what happened today. Hopefully....when we've both been drained of the poison that's making us such bitter enemies...we'll be able to take a chance at starting again. One can only hope.
That night, I wrote Ben an email. He always checks his email at night, 10:35 pm exactly. It's like clockwork. I remember because he told me himself. In fact, he used to call right after seeing a new message from me most nights. It was so cute, the way he would always check for mine first no matter who else was writing to him. That seems like it was so long ago now. Back to a time when things weren't so turbulent. Anyway, I knew he would get the email by the next time I saw him, so I'd at least have a shot at getting his attention. In the email, I tried to come up with some subtle way to say that I missed him. That he meant the world to me. To humble myself so low that he'd have to at least read all the way through it, if for no other reason than he pitied my pathetic attempt to reach out to him. I started the letter off rambling a bit, about this and that. Then I asked him how he was doing, as though he would tell me. And if he had picked up the new 'Air' cd. I just babbled on. You know, stupid stuff. Trying to create the illusion of a friendship that may have been considered extinct weeks ago. Did I really expect him to forget about me and Chandler? About ANYTHING? Who knows? Still, I typed out just enough to let him know that I was thinking about him. Hoping that he could somehow read deeply enough between the lines to see my heart bleeding for him like never before. And then, in closing...one simple statement...
"Ben...we need to talk. Please? I miss you."
Out of the entire email, that was the hardest part to write. Then again, it was the most heartfelt also, so I guess that's understandable. It might only take him a minute or two to read, but it took me a half hour to write it. It had to be perfect. I was now giving him the divine power to take me in his hands. To either lift me up or crush me in the palm of his hand. Maybe...he'd just drop me altogether, waiting for me to finally self destruct at the hands of my own immeasurable guilt. But...despite the fear and the doubt inside, I sent it to him anyway. I rushed to push the Return key before I ended up changing my mind at the last minute. No more trying to find a 'safe' way to do this and protect my feelings in the proccess. If I was going to have faith in what I felt for him, what I was hoping he could feel for me, then it was going to have to be complete. Unshakable. Indestructible. I was going to have to open myself up to whatever abuse he was ready to dish out in my direction for what I had done. The same way he had unknowingly opened himself for the punishment that I put him through by betraying his trust and love in the first place. That was the only way. I was just hoping that I would be ready for it. Then...right before turning off my computer for the night. I wrote one 'more' email...and released it into a different mailbox. Just to be done with it.
The next day, I practically jumped out of bed to turn my computer on...just to see if Ben had maybe sent me a 'yes' or 'no' reply in return. But I saw nothing. The mailbox was empty except for a mortgage payment spam mail and something about enlarging the size of my penis. Are people really THAT desperate where they need to send five of these advertisements a DAY to their damn house??? My penis is FINE! Jesus! Get a life! Anyway, I looked through my email, making SURE that I hadn't missed it. But that was wishful thinking on my part. He didn't say anything. Nothing at all. And my heart sank all over again. He didn't even 'care' enough to write me an email and tell me to piss off. God....I think that hurt worse than ANYTHING!
I went to school that day on shakey legs. Every class was another opportunity for me to be a nervous wreck for a little while longer. Everytime I stepped into the hallway between classes, I expected to see Ben somewhere off to the side, giving me the finger and telling me not to bother contacting him again. I mean, even when he was MAD, it wasn't like him to ignore me. But he remained a ghost for the entire day. Never once appearing in my line of vision as I secretely scanned the halls for a glimpse of his face. Deep down, I wondered if this was a sign. If he was silently telling me that he had no interest in starting things over with me. That he had no...interest in me period. But it could have just been a miscommunication. Or maybe he was just looking for a way to say 'I don't LIKE you anymore' without actually having to SAY it. Maybe he had been done with me for ages now and was finally getting the courage to tell me to fuck off. All of those thoughts rolled through my mind at the time. But Ben had a connection with me, the same way I had a connection with him. I had to believe that. Like Mr. Harris said, when it comes right down to it, this is all about faith. So I impatiently waited until the very last bell of the day, and crossed my fingers to the breaking point, praying that he'd be at the meeting this afternoon. Even if it was just to tell me to go to hell...I needed to hear it from his lips. Just to know once and for all that it was over so I could TRY to go on with my life in peace. Otherwise...my heart would be stuck in this agonizing limbo forever. Please....please God...I've never regretted a bad decision so much in my entire life. Please don't tell me that I've thrown away the only person who ever loved me for something so stupid. The only person who ever COULD love me so completely. Please tell me that I haven't destroyed something meaningful for a moment of weakness that wasn't worth the dirt I buried it in once it was over. Please??? I'll do anything...just give me one more chance. ONE MORE! To make things right.
It was the thought that stayed on my mind and repeated constantly like a private mantra until the very moment that I was standing outside the classroom that we used for our meetings afterschool. As Mr. Harris walked by, seeing me nervously tapping my foot and biting my fingernails outside the classroom door, he knew what I was going through. And he nodded briefly as though to wish me luck. Something told me that I was going to need it. Fortunately, he had agreed to open one of the rooms down the hall to give us someplace to discuss things in private. He wasn't supposed to, but decided to bend the rules in our case. If it weren't for him, I don't know what I would have done.
Ben came up the stairs, ready to enter the room, and our eyes locked onto one another as soon as he reached the top. It was as if time froze momentarily, both him and I paralyzed as fate contemplated its 'pawns' next move. I broke out of the deadlock first, and said, simply, "Hey...."
I wasn't sure what to expect this time. I didn't know if he had gotten the email or not...but I was trying hard to believe. Sooooo hard to believe. "You just don't stop, do you?" He said, already turning his ruby lips up into an aggrivated scowl.
I disregarded the chance to push back. Instead, I asked him, "Did you get my email last night?" He didn't answer. Instead, he looked angrily off to the side, never once meeting my glance. "I KNOW you did, Ben. You check your email every day at 10:35, right after the 10pm showing of The Simpsons. I know." Still no answer. "I just...I just wanna talk to you. That's all."
"What makes you think I want to talk to you right now?"
"Please? Just...for a few minutes. Ok?" I said. "Mr. Harris set aside a room for us to talk in. Just the two of us."
"You're telling Mr. Harris that mean old Ben is being mean to you? Did you even tell him WHY?" He said, but I refused to let this turn into a fight. Fighting was easy...we needed to 'talk'.
"If you wanna hate me, then hate me...but at least hear what I have to say." He looked down at the floor, maybe not ready to give me a chance to explain myself just yet. But I begged him, "Please? Ben....for me?" And without a word, he waved his hand as if to tell me to lead the way. So far so good. It was more than I had gotten from him since this feud began.
So I turned around to lead him to the other classroom, closing the door behind us and sitting on the teacher's desk, both of us side by side. We were quiet for the first few seconds. I had been trying to come up with some sort of meaningful speech to give him, some monologue that would truly touch something inside of him that would make him give up this vendetta against me. But now that he was here, sitting next to me, swinging his feet and banging his heels lightly against the oak wood of the desk....all of that preparation had been lost. "If you MUST know..." He started. "...I got your email."
"Did you read it?"
"I ERASED it." He frowned. Then, after a pause, he said, "But....I read it first." I looked up, happy to know that I had at least made SOME contact.
"Why did you hurt me, Cory?" He said. This time, more sadness in his voice than anger. "How could you do that to me without once thinking about how I'd feel about it?"
"Ben, you have no reason to forgive me me...I know that. And what I did was inexcuseable and cruel. I'd say that I was sorry, but that doesn't quite cover much of anything. I understand that." I lowered my head and could feel the tears already rushing to my eyes again. "But...I never meant to hurt you, Ben. I would never put what we had as friends in jeopardy. I would never do that."
Ben began to tear up a bit himself, trying not to be weak, trying not to give in. "I trusted you with everything, Cory. All this time, I was caring about you, thinking about you, wanting to spend time with you...and you were trying to score with my boyfriend. I feel like an IDIOT! I don't even know the exact point when you started outright lying to me when you said you cared...and that's killing me more than you can imagine right now." I lowered my head even more, and sniffled out of misery. "You were my rock, Cory. When things go THIS wrong, YOU were supposed to be the one that I could always come to. Well...what happens when you're the ONE person that I can't talk to about this? What happens when I'm left to deal with this all alone?"
"No! You DON'T know!" He said louder, now letting a tear roll down to his chin. "Do you know that I had to disconnect every feeling I ever had just to keep from KILLING myself these last few weeks? You think I didn't notice when you and Chandler started getting all cozy with each other? Did you think I wouldn't feel it when I suddenly became the third wheel? I kept telling myself that it wasn't happening. That you were just too busy to talk to me like you used to, that Chandler was somewhere else....thinking about me...afraid to tell me how he felt about me. That it MUST be something else that was going on here, because 'Cory' would NEVER do anything to hurt me like that. But I couldn't keep ignoring it. I couldn't. I actually thought I was ready to truly love somebody...and the whole time, you were fucking each other." His forehead wrinkled up and he began to cry. "Do you have any idea how much that hurt? Thinking of you...of him...giving his love to someone else? My whole body turned itself inside out. I don't think I'll ever be able to get rid of this pain again."
At one time, I wondered if I was going to be able to handle this inevitable backlash from him. The answer...is no. "I'm sorry, Ben. I'm SO sorry!"
"PLEASE!!! Please don't tell me that! Something about you saying that just makes it ten times worse!"
"Why???" I sobbed outloud.
"BECAUSE...!!!" He shouted, stopping to wipe his eyes..."Because it's not FAIR for me to want to care about you right now." The thought of what he said confused me a bit at first. I wasn't sure that my mind was interpreting it right. "It's not fair that I actually feel BAD for 'you' being hurt. It's not fair that seeing you cry is breaking my heart right now. And it's not fair....it's NOT fair...." He paused for a long moment, tears pouring out of his eyes as he tried to stop himself from saying it. "...It's not fair that I...miss you too." He said.
"Ben...?" I started to reach out a hand, but it was batted away.
"DON'T!!! Don't say ANYTHING! I don't WANT to miss you, Cory! I want to HATE you! I want to HATE you with everything that I have to give! I want you to fucking DIE for what you did to me, you son of a BITCH!!!" He shouted in a tear-filled frenzy, discouraging me from touching him at all. "But...I CAN'T! I can't because I still care about you, and a piece of me still needs you in my life, and I don't understand why it won't just fucking DIE inside of me like every other feeling I've ever had for you did!" He stood up, unable to sit still anymore. "You destroyed my love, my friendship, my trust....EVERYTHING! And while YOU were getting your dick sucked, I was trying to rebuild my heart out of the DUST that you left me in! I had NOTHING, Cory! Don't you GET IT??? You don't GET to just 'waltz' back into my life and nest in my heart again so you can FUCKING HURT me like this again!!! I won't LET you!!! NOT EVER AGAIN!!! I GAVE you my heart, and you RIPPED it to fucking SHREDS trying to find something better! Well you GOT it! So go make it work with HIM now! If it was so worth it to completely fucking GUT me for your own self satisfaction...then GO for it! I hope he makes you happy!"
"He's gone, Ben." I said quietly.
"He's gone. Chandler's gone. I sent him an email right after sending you one. And I told him that it wasn't going to work. I told him that it was over. This time forever."
Ben stopped for a moment, looking at me from the side. Then frowned up again, "You don't get points for dropping him NOW." He pouted. Then continued with, "Good. I hope it hurt. I hope he hurt you REALLY bad! So you can sit at home all alone and think about what it was like for me to have my heart sliced up with shards of broken glass while the boy you love more than anything gets to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I hope the absence of his love is slowly decaying everything that ever made you feel good inside."
"It is....in some ways. But I'm....I'm in love with someone else. And no matter what he feels about me....no matter what our differences are...I know it's real this time. I know because it's been here all along. I just never appreciated it before." I looked up at Ben with tear filled eyes. "I told Chandler that too. I told him I was in love...and that no one else would ever come close to giving me that feeling inside. Not like this boy could."
Ben seemed to cock his head to one side, almost in annoyed disbelief. "Heh, you know what? You've got some fucking NERVE!"
"I love you, Ben." I said, letting it come out of my mouth for the first time. "I always have. I just wanted..."
"SHUT UP!!! You don't know WHAT you fucking want! You're just a stupid punk kid who went chasing after a rainbow, and got EXACTLY what he deserved for mercilessly breaking my heart into a million fucking pieces the way you did!" He screamed. "You fucked up, got dumped on, and NOW you think you can put it all back together by coming up with another LIE!"
"It's not a lie, Ben. I'm telling you the truth."
"No you're NOT! You just want me to take the place of your heartache and pain while you go looking for another way to screw me over again!"
"I hurt for you all the time..."
"GOOD!!!" He snapped.
"I've loved you since the first time we traded numbers, and you talked to me on the phone that one night. Do you remember? That night when you talked on and on, about everything that was special to you...until you fell asleep. I just...listened to you breathe for a few moments, and then whispered goodnight before hanging up. I knew then...that I really felt something for you." I was ignoring all of his rejections at this point. I just HAD to finally get this out once and for all. "I didn't know what to do with the feeling at the time. I hardly even knew what it was. I guess I was scared of having someone as a friend AND a lover, because that was more than I was willing to handle back then. But it kept growing. And I guess that having a piece of Chandler was like having a piece of you."
"That is such bullshit..."
"I'm trying to tell you that what I feel for you is more than just some buddy-buddy infatuation. I really love you, Ben."
"Are you even LISTENING to me?!?!?!" He shouted, but I wouldn't let him stop me. This had to be said. And I had come too far to stop now.
"I always appreciated you, Ben. I might not have said it often enough, and through recent events, I certainly didn't demonstrate it too well...but I always cared about you. I still do. I think...I think I always will."
"I'm leaving!" Ben said, jumping down from the teacher's desk and slinging his bag over his shoulder.
"It's true, Ben. All bullshit aside...it's true."
"I'm not gonna let you do this to me. Do you hear me? I'm not gonna let you do this. You missed out. I'm sorry, but I won't be tricked into letting you take advantage of me again. It hurts too much." He began to cry again, and it made him that much more beautiful, because despite his rough and abrasive exterior...his true heart was shining through it all. And it was shining brighter than anything that I could ever find in anyone else. God....it was breathtaking. "Fuck you, Cory. I mean that. Fuck you...." And with that...he got up, and left the room. That was that.
Was that his final goodbye? Should I take this last conversation as the end of everything that I was trying to do? It was hard to tell. I couldn't be totally sure. But if nothing else...I got to tell him how I feel. I let him know what was going on in my heart and my soul. Whether he accepted it or not was up to him. No one could say that I didn't try. It just happened to fail...miserably.
Ben must have gone straight home, because I didn't see him in the meeting when I returned to the other classroom. Mr. Harris looked at me as soon as I walked through the door, hopefully wide eyed. But, I gave him a somber look in return, shaking my head softly from side to side, letting him know that it didn't work out. That it would probably NEVER work out. The disappointed grimace on his face was almost as bad as my own at that moment, and he walked over to give me a long tight hug. "I'm sorry, kiddo. I'm really sorry."
The rest of the class could see us, and I'm sure they were watching me. I'd be the hot topic of the gay gossip mill tomorrow without a doubt. Still, the emotion had to be released. I wept deep into his broad shoulders, holding onto him for dear life, and trying desperately to wish myself into another dimension where none of this had ever happened, and things between me and Ben were ok. I gave it my best shot...and that's all that I could get back from it. A 'fuck you' and an emotional door slammed in my face for the rest of eternity. Forever being punished for sins of the flesh. It was enough to make you want to die and start over again from scratch in the next life.
He was gone....maybe forever. And nothing I did could ever get him back. I guess love ISN'T foolproof. Maybe it's not supposed to be. It wouldn't be so magical if it didn't have it's flaws.
It was at that moment, in Mr. Harris' arms, that I felt the void complete its mission. It had totally corrupted every part of me, leaving it empty and cold. The only thing to do now was wait for my heart to break down completely....so it could possibly start to build itself up again.......