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I woke up in a tightly-curled ball, on my sore, burned right side, tucked into the corner of the headboard and the wall. I was sweaty - soaked - and sore. I was panting shallowly, and knew that trying to breathe deeply and slowly would only instigate a bout of coughs. My injured left hand felt as if I'd given it a workout, and the burns on my side and back were irritated by the salty sweat and by having been stretched for so long. The throbbing behind the temple wound was unbearable. Weirdest of all, I was sucking my right thumb.
The fear and the horror were still potent.
Fucking dream! Again! This time Tom was there. That seemed normal, though, in the dream. Was he in it before? What the fuck? Fuck, fuck, fuck!
Judging by the orange lstreet light coming in through the window, it was still dark. I slowly uncurled, wincing and whimpering with the effort. A brief thought of a shower sparked and faded as I instead gingerly slid under the covers. I shivered, but I refused to think why. I insisted that it was over, I'd had it, I could go back to sleep and not worry about dreaming it again.
In that hazy, no-way-to-know-how-much-time-has-passed way, Mom was suddenly calling, "Time for breakfast and bandages!"
It's still too early, I dreamed her calling, I insisted.
"Hon? You forget to set your alarm?" Loud and clear.
I felt as if I hadn't stepped over a deep ravine. My head felt fuzzy and light, my body felt rough-edged and heavy. The normal weakness was made worse by a haze of pain running through me.
"Hon? You better be getting up. Back to school today, you know. You moving up there?"
Shit! Back to school today. Oh, gawd.
I sat up with a loud groan. My back and right side felt as if I had a bad sunburn at the movement. Most of my muscles were sore. My head was swimming in nearly-set pudding.
What the hell happened last night? I feel like I partied all fucking night! I got to go back to school today, and I feel like fucking shit!
"Hon? You moving up there?" came Mom's voice again, closer.
The moment I opened my mouth to answer I belched instead. My stomach rolled over. I stood, unsteadily at first, dizzy and light-headed in the extreme. I inhaled to answer her and ended up coughing and gagging at the same time.
I swayed on my feet and had to sit again to keep from falling.
What the hell? First day back to school after the hospital and I feel like a zombie. Geeze. I know a merta hangover. Why'd I do that on the night before school? Fuck. I remember... Doctor Who. But, before, before even the merta... there was something bad...
Then the memory came. My right eye winked, my right hand flinched.
I sucked Tom's dick last night!
I ran to the bathroom, afraid I wouldn't make it before I threw up. My legs nearly collapsed beneath me with each staggering step. I fell onto my knees in front of the toilet and retched breathlessly. That dreaded fear of suffocation welled up as I fought to breathe between the coughs and deep retching. When the coughs subsided and I'd spit chunks of phlegm and something else into the toilet, I could breathe again. I was able to push away the sensation of looming suffocation.
I managed to stand and look at myself in the mirror after I'd washed out my mouth.
Why'd I do that?
I fucking cheated on Jeff by sucking Tom off last night! Then got blasted on merta! What the fuck do I do now? Why do I always fuck things up with sex? What's wrong with me? And today I'm supposed to go back to school and ride the bus with Tom and Jeff!
I threw up again.
"Oh, Alex, hon, you okay?" Mom asked softly as she entered the bathroom.
I nodded, unable to speak, threw up again. Her being there only made it worse.
"Hon, is it nerves? Or do you feel sick? Nervous about going back to school or is it something else?"
I felt her hand on my back. It didn't help.
I started to say that it was just a bad fit of coughing so that she wouldn't worry and would just leave me alone in my own private misery. Instead, I threw up some more. This time, each retching caused excruciating pain at my temple.
I couldn't remember ever feeling so low and worthless before in my whole life.
I heard water running and then felt a wet cloth placed on my forehead.
"Over yet?" she asked.
I nodded against the rag she held to my forehead, knowing that it was indeed over. The dizziness was evaporating and the nausea almost gone. Instead, now my guts felt chewed and knotted.
I flushed the toilet and lowered the lid to sit on it. I took the wet rag from her and wiped my mouth with it, then threw it into the sink. She rinsed it as she spoke.
"Hon, I know going back to school with everybody knowing about you and Jeff is probably pretty hard, but I-"
That was as far as she got before I threw myself down in a one-hundred-eighty degree spin and lifted the toilet lid just in time to vomit again. I had been settling down, but she went and threw another whole new rock into the pond.
Fuck and hell! I wasn't even thinking about everyone at school knowing! And Mom has to remind me right now? Holy fuck, am I screwed!
I didn't notice that my right eye was nearly fluttering, but I did notice my right hand on the rim of the toilet was shaking violently. The nearly forgotten concern of some kind of neurological disorder reared up again, only making the situation worse.
I threw up yet again. Nothing came out, but my guts wanted to go through the effort all the same, and I had no vote on the matter. My temple felt as if the bone fragments were being pried apart with each convulsion of my guts.
There was no way I could possibly tell her what was bothering me, so I chose to run with the information she had dredged up.
If only she knew! I thought.
"Mom, it's going to be such a nightmare!"
I was shocked at my voice. It had been lower ever since I had woken in the hospital, and it had grown a bit more so over the following days, but now it was even lower and coarser. I almost sounded like an adult.
"Oh, hon. I thought you were going to handle this a lot better. You've been so confident all week. I thought you were going to march right into that school and make the very best of things. Did something change that I don't know about?"
Oh, boy! Did something change! Don't ask! How can I tell her I sucked Tom's dick? No fucking way. And there's something else, too, besides everyone at school knowing about me. Mom thinks they all know about me and Jeff. Jeff! Shit! I made him go home! I fucking kicked his ass out when he got all stupid about Tom coming over. Fuck! I forgot that!
It was too much to handle. I had to fight to keep from crying, and in front of my mom. Again. I'd been sick of crying even before the van fire, now it was even worse as I sat on the floor of the bathroom, leaning over the toilet, one eye winking nearly constantly and one hand trembling to the point of uselessness.
Why can't I handle shit? Better yet, why do I have to put up with all this shit? Why me?
My guts churned, knowing that I was about to spill them to her. I had no doubts that I was about to do so. I didn't want to, I wanted to deal with it on my own, and most especially not with my mommie's help. But I knew the words were coming, and I knew I had no chance to stop them. My best hope was that I could control some of what I said.
I started with, "Mom... " which was followed by barely repressed, gut-wrenching, nearly silent sobs.
"Oh, dear," she said, placing her arm around me and pulling me into her other.
Fucking just turned sixteen and here I am crying like a baby on my mommy! Again! I wailed at myself.
I forgot words and just felt. And it hurt.
Both hands were useless as I returned her hug. The middle fingers on my left hand popped painfully as I tried to grasp and hold the other still.
After the worst of it passed, Mom asked, "Hon, you wanna talk about it?"
"No." Firmly and with finality, and with a voice so low I didn't recognize it.
"Is there anything I can do to help, then?"
I wished that I could think of anything, I really did.
I shook my head.
"If there is anything I can ever do, at any time, just talk, I want to. You understand?"
My breaths were coming back under my control and I felt less nauseous. I sniffed and wiped my eyes with my palms.
"There's just so much going on," I said, my voice cracking out of its new lower range momentarily.
"I remember. And I had it easier than you. So I want to be able to make it better. Any way I can. I love you, Alexander. Okay?"
I smiled and nodded, again wiping at my eyes. More sniffles later I choked out, "I just never thought things could be so complicated. I thought you just got along and things went good."
"Oh, I wish that were true. I hope your dad or I didn't give you that idea."
I barked out a single laugh, not knowing why. It seemed out of place, but it felt good.
"I don't know where I got it. But it sure was a stupid one," I said sadly, shaking my head.
"We all get stupid ideas from time to time. It's natural, I guess. You have to recognize when you do, though. That's very important, Alex. You have to recognize when you have a bad idea, that it was wrong. When you see your idea is a bad one, don't forget it, but don't repeat it. If you did something in acting on that bad idea, do something to fix it. And you have to do what you can to correct a mistake. If you don't, you'll find yourself regretting it more and more over time."
That sure made sense. I'd learned much the same thing myself very recently through my own actions, so her words were nothing new to me. They were only new in that I was hearing them from someone else instead of from myself.
I nodded more and calmed further.
"Well, Alexander, I just want to help you be happy, and if you can figure any way I can do that, you let me know. Okay?"
She hugged me again.
"If I come up with something, I'll let ya know."
She combed my hair back a bit and asked, "Can I give you a piece of advice?"
She held my face again, directing my eyes to hers. I nodded.
"Son, Alexander my son, I never thought this was something I would say as a mother, but... "
Dear God what is she gonna say? I thought, fear welling up.
"But son, you really have to unwind a bit. You're too, uptight, sometimes."
Her brows were knitted tightly as she continued to hold my eyes.
"You take everything to heart. You let everything get in to you. You have to, sort of, I guess, filter things. Am I making any sense?"
I knew exactly what she meant. I didn't know that it was so apparent.
"Sure, things with Jeff, and you're being gay, and that damned van and all that, yes, that's big deals. You're right to be worried and all, but you can take control. At least to some degree. You let things wind you up so. I can see you're wound up so tight right now you could spring off the walls.
"Your dad and I hoped the grass would help you unwind some, but you still wind up so easily."
"Mom, the pot don't help with real problems. At all. It just makes times easier. I guess."
"What about those anxiety pills? The doctors wanted you on these other mood elevators I read about that I don't want anyone I know using. Do these do anything? I noticed you don't take them unless I make you. And I don't want to make you."
"They work. But they make me feel nothing. I care, in my head, but I don't feel it. I knew I should have laughed at times but I didn't. And I knew when I was thinking certain things that I should have felt... something, but I just didn't. I hardly really cared about anything. I don't like 'em."
"Well, should we ask the doctor to try something else?"
"Mom, no, I don't need no pills to deal. I'd rather know what I'm feeling than zombie my way through the day. I'll take one if things really bother me. Like today. I guess I better take one with me to school. If I need it I'll take it. Okay?"
She kissed my forehead then nodded at me, finally releasing my face.
"I'm just, kinda, nervous. I mean, back to school and all. How are the guys gonna treat me? Some of 'em heard about me, I'm sure. I mean, Tom and Jeff and the guys say there's no big deal goin' on about me and hardly anybody heard I might be gay. It won't be bad, I'm sure, I'm just, worried. Okay? But right now, could I just ask a question?"
"What's that?" she asked, smiling and trying to make me do so.
"Do emotions ever get easier to deal with?"
I saw that the question surprised her; there was clear shock in the way her eyebrows angled. She brought back the smile and shook her head.
"I don't know. Maybe. Sometimes. Mostly not. I don't know."
She clearly gave up.
"You know, Mom, at least you admit you don't know. Seems like people have a hard time admitting that."
"I agree. And they shouldn't. Especially parents. But that doesn't mean you should stop trying to find out the answer on your own."
She wiped my cheeks, making me feel a bit too vulnerable to my mommy again. It showed, and I knew it when she stopped smiling so widely and instead smirked.
"Yeah, you're getting too old to be babied. I see. But you'll never be too old to hug and hold!"
Her ebullient embrace, loud murmur, and back-patting made me feel better, even laugh again.
"Now get that shower and let's do your bandages before I'm late for my carpool!"
I nodded and stood. A sudden horror occurred to me.
"Oh, Mom! Please tell me you don't talk to them about, me?"
"Oh, hon, don't flatter yourself. Your angst is not on our chatting agendas. They might ask about you from time to time, but that's about it. I say you're doing fine and I'm proud of you."
I felt several emotions all at once. Most oddly was embarrassment at her stated pride of me. It was hard for me to see any reason for her to be.
"I'll be fine, Mom. Just nerves. Okay? I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" she inevitably asked.
I nodded and gave her my best confident smile.
"You need a shower! You've barely got the time, so hop to it, young man."
She threw the rag into the hamper and gave me a reassuring smile as she left. I looked at myself in the mirror and tried to think.
I know Mom is trying to help, but she don't know it all. She don't know about the fight. She don't know what I did last night to Tom. Or how now I gotta go face him on the bus. With Jeff. Fuck.
I punched the sink, hoping the pain would give me something else to focus on. I punched it again, harder, popping several knuckles. I considered using the injured and still sore left hand, but then wondered why I even considered it. It seemed stupid, like something a bully would do, and that made me angry.
Good, anger, I thought. Anger is better than crying! Get mad!
I did. I cursed myself and focused accusations at myself. I glared at myself in the mirror, hating what I saw.
"Faggot!" I hissed at myself. "Fucking faggot bastard! Cheater! Cheating fucking queer! You're a worthless, cheating, fucking, cock-sucker!"
For a moment the irony of that statement, no, the accuracy of it, humored me.
"Yeah," I said to my mirror image, "yup, you're a cock-sucker."
I grinned without meaning or wanting to. It was an ugly smile that only angered me further.
"What are you fucking grinning at, homo? Huh? You got something to smile about? Huh? Any-fucking-thing at all?"
And you fucking kick him out and then cheat on him first chance you get.
"Worthless fucking cock-sucker!" I growled at my image.
I turned over the events of last night in my head, trying to figure out why it had happened. Then I tried to figure out Jeff. Then I tried to find a way to deal with them. No answers.
I gave up. I shook my head at myself, got undressed, took off the gauze bandages, and showered. I spent the whole time trying to figure out how I could avoid both Tom and Jeff all day my first day back at school. I kept coming back to laughing almost hysterically.
Just how the hell am I going to pull this off? I've done it before, and then I told them how I'd sat at the little desk behind the last bookshelf in the library behind the Dewey catalogs. They'd know to look there this time. And for fucking sure I'll never make it all day, they both had friends in some of my classes.
No way, I realized. I dressed and went downstairs for a normal breakfast. I managed to mime my way along, claiming that I'd taken a little yellow pill to deal with the big day, and I was sure it was ruining my appetite. Too soon I was standing near my bed in my puffy, blue, nylon coat, and ridiculously long Tom Baker scarf wrapped around my head and neck, holding the new backpack that was left at my locker for me after the news about the van fire got around school. I was wondering how in the hell I could possibly evade Tom, Jeff, and everyone else all day on my first day back.
Fuck. Who am I kidding? I said to myself before collapsing to a sitting position on the bed and dropping the pack at my feet.
I knew that Tom would be heading out to catch the bus in minutes, and I knew that if I rode my bike hard enough I would beat the bus to school, but there was no way I could hide out for the day. My bike would be seen, for one thing. Others would see me even before classes. Once in the first class, a friend of Tom's would be there. Then second period, one of Jeff's. Third period...
I gave up.
Maybe they'll all think I'm still staying home and didn't go to school? I can't hide all day. I can't ride the bus. I can't even go!
I made my mind up. There was no going. It would be impossible to sit next to or even look at Tom, let alone Jeff. There was no way I could pretend nothing happened.
Not even Tom could pretend nothing had happened this time! And now the whole damned school knows I'm gay. Almost for sure. And I'm going back to that after kicking Jeff out and then cheating on him by blowing Tom?
"FUCK THAT!" echoed inside my head.
I unwrapped the long scarf and tossed it on the chair, followed by the coat and gloves. I kicked the pack over to the floor near the chair, instantly regretting it. It was an awesome pack, better than the one that had come apart on me that last day at school, dumping an important paper into the slush. A nameless someone had bought it and put it on my locker with a note. Tom had brought it to me while I was still in the hospital. I was fairly sure I knew who had written that note, but Tom, Jeff, and the rest didn't seem to; but they hadn't sat next to him and watched him write for the last three years. Or they had, but they hadn't noticed.
The best friend a guy could ever have, and I go and pretty much rape him. He'd saved my life, at least once, officially. Plus he helps me every chance he gets, even if I didn't know a shit-thing about it. Way more than once. I wonder if he really did write down any of the things he's done I don't know about, like he said he was gonna, and like he said at my party he ran out of paper doing.
The party he put together. The party where Jeff and I became official after he told us all he was gay and interested in me. No wonder I wanted to have sex with Tom so much again. And we were so totally high. And I didn't even think of Jeff. Jeff! Wonderful, handsome, sexy, hot, perfect Jeff! I fucking cheated on him.
Stoned. I need to be stoned. Fuck going to school. I can't. I'll call the principal and just say something happened to my burns in the shower and they're bleeding, so I need to stay home today. Be there tomorrow. Sure.
Fucking get real, Alex!
No school though. No way I can get on that bus with them. And no way I can hide all day.
I went to the desk and pulled the box from the drawer, thinking, this is the reason it happened. If I wasn't so stoned I wouldn't have reached out and grabbed Tom's hard-on. I wouldn't have been hard or horny.
Tom went to leave and his boner was right in my face. And I'd been thinking how I'd like to with Tom at least one more time. No wonder I grabbed his package. I pretty much raped him. I know he fucking freaked out! Did Tom ever leave here like that before?
Tom's never! I've yelled at him to leave before! I made him before, but no, I don't think Tom's ever left like that on his own! I made him leave like that because I pretty much raped him.
I pretty much raped Tom! Fucking great! And the night before my first day back at school. And Jeff. Jeff!
Oh shit, what'd I do?
I wanted it all or nothing with him, he wouldn't let us have the all, but I got something in the middle, and now it looks like I'll have nothing!
What kind of freak am I? I can't have a friend and not fuck him? Or want to? Or what? All my closest friends I've had sex with. Tom, the twins, Eric. Jon even, Tim too. All of them more than once. Even showed Jeff's younger brother how to use a banana peel.
And I want most of my other friends. Or would do it with 'em if I had the chance. Especially Erich. Or Steve. Or Thomas. Or Cooley. And then there's Scott from gym class. Both of them! And I'd do any of 'em right off!
I shook my head, making a point of it with myself. I'd fuck anybody. I'd fucked all my closest friends. Most of them would do it again if we had the chance. Most of them we did do it every chance we had. Especially Eric. Flaming red-haired Eric. Always ready, always ready again right away. And ready again very soon after. And often again. Insatiable.
Another stern shake of my head.
I'm a sex freak. All my closest friends I've had sex with, I repeated once again to myself as I fell into that all-too-familiar funk. I'd screwed something up again with sex.
Why did I do it? Why didn't I just make a stupid joke and pretend to grab his goodies? Why did I reach right out and massage him? Dumb motherfucker.
Jeff was opening up. And we were starting to understand each other during sex. We could tell what the other wanted sometimes. And we found out that neither of us wanted to be fucked by the other very much. We both wanted to do the other, but not the other way around.
And wow, had we gotten our tongues twisted! We both love oral! And Jeff's a very willing student to the things I learned from Toby and others. His big, soft lips are skillful, and growing even more capable. We even discovered a new thing together, to both of us at least.
But most of all, Jeff's a willing hugger and snuggler. I'd done that only with Toby before. But do I even wanna try to be with Jeff if he can't deal with our friends knowing? How can we be together if we have to pretend we're not whenever someone else is around? Not like I wanna sit on each other's lap and make out. I just don't wanna have to pretend it ain't happening when our friends are around. Why can't we just be normal around them?
Do I wanna even be with such a wuss? And he wants to be all in charge and act all strong and shit, but he can't even handle that little bit. Cripes.
I rolled a good sized joint and didn't bother putting the box away. I knew I was going to be using it all day. For a moment the ramifications of playing hooky tried to make me regret the decision to do it, but I firmed my resolve and refused to let any thoughts of consequences for my actions guide me.
This is an emergency day off, I declared to myself, and lit the joint.
The doorbell rang.
It startled me so much that I nearly dropped the joint. Looking at the clock, I knew who it was.
What I didn't know, was what he wanted. I was certain that there was no way he was here to act normal. Not a chance. But he knew I was late heading to the bus, and he was here to see why.
As if he didn't know why! Why didn't I expect that? Because he should be... afraid of me? This isn't Jeff, this is Tom. I should'a seen he'd come over and expect to be able to get things to be back to normal. It's Tom!
But things can't go back to normal! I raped him when I should've been thinking of Jeff! How can he even pretend?
He rang the doorbell again.
My guts went into panic mode. I felt my muscles tense as I sat up straighter. My eyes darted around the room as if in search of some possible object as an answer. There was nothing, of course.
I hit the joint again, hoping he would just give up. Hoping that he would assume I rode my bike and was already gone.
He rang the bell again.
Fuck, I mumbled around the writhing smoke.
I hit the joint again, hoping against hope itself that Tom would leave. I knew he wouldn't get in the house. I knew I was safe.
Stay away from the window, I reminded myself. I slunk lower in the chair and hit the joint again. When I had taken three hits with no doorbell, I knew that Tom was gone. I'm surprised he didn't call, I thought.
The phone rang.
Is he really that determined that things be all normal? I asked myself. How can he even be trying to talk to me after last night? How the hell can he even pretend that things were normal?
The phone rang for at least two full minutes. The joint was over half gone. When it finally didn't ring, I actually jumped a bit in surprise. I looked at the clock and knew that if Tom was going to make the bus that he would have to leave, and run, right now.
I hit the joint, holding each hit as long as I could. I wallowed in despair and self-disgust as I watched each little white number flip over on its little black half-card. When it was five minutes past the time the bus would have left at our stop, I let relief wash through me.
While I was still angry and disgusted at myself for what I saw was pretty much raping Tom the previous night, the fact that Tom was no longer so imminent a problem was relaxing.
I finished the joint, trying to see a way out of what I had done.
Tom's on the bus heading to school, with Jeff. What's Tom gonna say? And why do I feel deja-vu?
Because once again I'm afraid to ride the bus! This time because I raped Tom.
I blinked spasmodically once as the realization struck home, finally sinking through.
Raped Tom? Hah! If Tom hadn't wanted me to, he wouldn't have let me. The dude can kick my ass. I've seen him fight when he needed to. Right next to me. And he'd wrestled me to the ground a hundred times.
But he was drugged. Sure. I had him so stoned that... what? I could have had my way with him? Hah! Tom can out-drink and out-smoke me anytime. Especially right now with my tolerance so low.
No, wait. He stood up all hard and shoved it my face. He knew it was there, and he knew I'd see it. He wanted me to see it! He was daring me! To see what I'd do!
No. Knight would never do that. I think he was just as horny and stoned as me, and he was standing sideways, not shoving it in my face. And he moved fast. He didn't. He just wanted to go jack-off, or get home and not bring up sex with me.
And this morning he was trying to get things to normal between us before we saw Jeff together on the bus.
Oh, shit. Wait. I screwed up!
I fucking hid again. Instead of facing up and getting things straightened out, I fucking hid again. Tom's right. Again. I do this over and over. I never learn! I fucking hide from shit. That don't make it like it never happened or something. It just keeps it going on. And makes it worse.
Those thoughts brought Mom's words as I sat on the toilet earlier clearly back to my mind.
"Alex, you have to recognize when you have a bad idea, that it was wrong. When you see your idea is a bad one, don't forget it, but don't repeat it. If you did something in acting on that bad idea, do something to fix it. And you have to do what you can to correct a mistake. If you don't, you'll find yourself regretting it more and more over time."
I'd already known that. I'd said it to Tom and Jeff at different times more than once. I'd reminded myself of it many times lately. And yet I still didn't heed it. It took Mom telling me for it to stick.
Not this time! If my knight can try to make things normal, then I can too!
I put on my coat, scarf, gloves, and grabbed my backpack. I ran downstairs, pausing to make a quick pleading gesture at Toby as I dashed by. I hesitated at the door to the garage for only a moment. I was through the garage and out the side door and on my bike in seconds. I started riding hard and fast, ignoring my already labored breathing.
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