WHAT LIES WITHIN: CHAPTER 1
A dream is the answer to a question we haven't yet learned how to ask.
-- Fox Mulder
Billy Jenkins and I hurried home from school together. Once we arrived at my house, we looked cautiously around my backyard. Finding nobody there to spot us, we quickly slipped behind the garage and safely out of sight.
Billy looked shyly at me. "So, uh...Rusty...what'ya wanna do?" he asked, with that cute little husky voice of his, and a shy smile.
Oh god; Billy was just so cute...my heart was totally on fire for this boy. I sighed as I gazed into his big pale crystal-blue eyes, and his cute little face surrounded by that short-buzzed light brown hair. I reached up with my hand, and brushed his freckled cheek softly as he smiled nervously at me again. He was so sexy; I just couldn't stand it any longer. My hands reached out tentatively around his waist, and gently pulled us together. I leaned in and kissed him. Instantly, my head was spinning from my very first kiss. Billy groaned in ecstasy, and his hand immediately found the raging boner in the front of my jeans. My hand quickly reached for his excitement, and in no time we were stroking each other feverishly as we continued that first long sexy kiss...one that we both wanted to never end.
"What the fuck is goin' on back here!" screamed my 17-year-old brother Mark, spotting us as he came around behind the garage to light a cigarette.
Shit, he was home early from school! He must be ditching...Damn! Billy and I were both frozen in terror. All we could do was just stand there with our pants down to our knees, and our hands wrapped around the other's boner.
"Jesus Christ Rusty! What are you, some kind of faggot or something?" he said in shock, as he charged closer to us...backing us both up against the wall of the garage, cowering from his anger and his intimidating size, as compared to us.
I turned to Billy and said to him quietly, "Uh...maybe you better go now."
As Billy grabbed his pants up and tried to slink away, Mark grabbed him around the neck with his hand, and threw him back against the wall. He held him there for a moment with his hand still clamped tightly around his neck.
"If I ever see you again with Rusty, or even hear that you talked to him, I'll kill you so fast you won't even know you're dead, you got it?" Mark threatened, staring coldly into Billy's eyes from just inches in front of his face.
Billy's face was turning red, and it looked like his eyes were starting to bulge out. But, he managed to weakly nod yes to Mark's demand. He tossed Billy aside roughly, and immediately focused his eyes on his next victim...me.
As Billy hurried away, our eyes connected briefly just before he disappeared around the corner of the garage. I'll never forget the look of sadness and helplessness I saw in his eyes at that moment.
"You! Just what the fuck do you think you're doing faggin' off back here with yer little boyfriend?" Mark screamed at me, now wrapping his hand firmly around my neck. "Don't you know that we do with faggots around here? If I EVER catch you doin' that shit again, you are dead meat, boy. It's just not NORMAL!" I watched in what seemed like slow motion, as his fist pulled back. As it began to accelerate towards my face, I closed my eyes and braced for the contact I knew was coming...
"Aaaaaaaaaaaggghhhh!" I screamed out as I sat bolt upright in my bed. I looked frantically around my bedroom, looking for a way to escape my attacker. I quickly realized that I was still in bed, and I could see that it was still dark outside.
Fuck! It was that goddamn dream again. My heart was racing a million miles an hour, and I was drenched in sweat. Ever since that day in the seventh grade, my entire life had been driven by that terrifying experience. Well, of course that, and Billy's death three days later.
My brother Mark had killed Billy, and I knew it. No, he didn't literally kill him, but he might as well have. He got the word to some ninth graders at our school that Billy was gay and trying to `pervert' his little brother. Little did he know that I was the one who had begged Billy to come home with me, not that he wasn't willing.
Billy got beat up pretty bad after school the first day, and all I could do was watch in horror from a safe distance. The next day, Billy stayed home from school to heal from his injuries, I guess (and to avoid any new ones...). I desperately wanted to talk to him or go see him or something, but I felt so terrible about it...like it was really my fault somehow, and that I was actually responsible for what my brother had done in some way. I just couldn't face Billy after that. I was afraid to face him...I just knew it would hurt too much. The day after that, Billy disappeared after school. I never saw him again...except in my dreams; or rather, my nightmares. I hate that stupid dream.
They found Billy three days later on the rocks along the river underneath the big bridge at the edge of our town. The official story was that he had jumped. But personally, I never believed that Billy had actually jumped...and thus killed himself. I always suspected that he'd had a little help, but I was too much of a coward to say something to anyone about it. Even now, when I go up to that bridge by myself sometimes, I can feel Billy there with me. It's kinda spooky, but it's nice to feel close to him again. Sometimes I imagine that he's still lookin' out for me...like my guardian angel or something (I know, I know...it's kinda silly).
Between the shock of Billy's death, the terror of living with my brother's very real threats, and the recurring nightmares, what happened that week was not something I would soon forget. EVERYTHING in my life changed after that. It just had to. At the time, it felt like that was the only thing I could do to survive.
I lied when my parents asked why my face was bashed in. I told them I got beat up after school yet again (it was a somewhat regular occurrence, anyway). I knew my brother Mark was pretty sure I wouldn't tell anyone that he'd done it, because that would involve outing myself to my parents and the world. Not a chance, and he knew it.
Although my brother Mark moved away to college three years ago, the pain and fear inside me forged from that terrifying time still rules every minute of my life, and I know it. I hate that fact, but I know it does. Even though I'm seventeen now, inside I still feel like that terrified twelve-year-old kid at times. The only difference is that nowadays, I'm just better at hiding it.
As I lay there on my bed, fighting to go back to sleep, I wondered to myself why I keep having this stupid dream. For most of my life I've hardly ever had real vivid dreams...ones that I could remember in the morning, at least. Until just recently, that is. I've been having that stupid dream a lot lately, and it's starting to freak me out a little. Why now? Is it supposed to mean something? Is my subconscious trying to tell me something...or am I finally just losing my grip here?
Being the youngest of three kids (and an `oops' baby to top it all off...), I had been totally spoiled, and completely sheltered from the harsher realities of life, until I hit Junior High. I have to admit I was always a good kid...a real `momma's boy' for sure. My older brothers always hated that. Maybe they were just jealous that Mom gave me more attention than they got. But, I never got into any of the trouble they did, either. I also did well in school, and that just pissed `em off even more.
Both of my brothers had always been big, macho football types for as long as I could remember...just like dear old dad. They gave me no end of grief for being the runt of the family, not to mention the youngest. As I got older, it was painfully clear to everyone that I would never be much taller than Mom (5'-7" or so), and lucky if I ever topped 130 pounds soaking wet. My mom told me that I took after her side of the family. She was half Italian, and half French-native American mix. Whereas my dad and my brothers were big, burly, hairy-chested `manly men,' I was slim, small and very smooth. My olive skin and straight hair matched my mom's, in contrast to my paler brothers. When I was 12, I was wearing hand-me-down clothes from when my middle brother Mark was only 9 years old, if you can believe that!
But, when I hit the Junior High scene, everything went to hell for me. Like I said, I was pretty small for my age, and way too innocent in the ways of the Junior High world. My naturally sensitive, kinda shy, artistic/intellectual personality didn't really make a big hit with the other kids there, for some reason. After the third or fourth time I got beat to shit, my brothers made it their personal mission to toughen me up, and `make me a man.' They literally punched, kicked, and beat it into me. Sometimes I would get so mad at them, I would just explode into a fury of punches, kicks, bites...whatever I could manage. But, I was so small; they would always just laugh at me as they easily deflected my angry outbursts. Eventually, I learned that it didn't do much good to just get mad. I had to learn how to get even...or maybe even learn how to get one step ahead of the bullies. But, I still have an explosive temper. It takes a lot to make me blow; but when I do, you better stand back!
Then came that little episode behind the garage, when I got caught kissing Billy Jenkins. Billy was the only boy I ever met who really understood what it was like for me. I guess we just had so much in common in our lives and how the world treated us at school and stuff...except he wasn't lucky enough to have two older brothers to beat the shit out of him. After he died, I realized how much I had really loved Billy. He was such a special person, and my heart ached for him. I just couldn't accept that he was really gone.
How could someone as sweet, as honest and caring as Billy was just suddenly die? It was just so wrong! So unfair. Billy had never done anything to hurt anyone. How could he possibly deserve to die like that?
God, I hurt so badly inside, I could barely stand it. You can bet I never forgave my brother for what he had done; and to this day I refuse to speak to him unless I absolutely have to. Billy's death left such a huge gaping hole inside me, that I vowed I would never let myself feel that way about another person...ever. I was absolutely sure that I could never survive something like that a second time in my life. I shut the whole world out after that. I was hurt, and I was angry. If that kind of heartbreak and pain was all this fucked up existence had to offer, then the whole goddam world could just go to hell, as far as I was concerned.
So, I changed. I had to. I wanted the pain and the abuse to end, and I just wanted everybody to leave me alone...my brothers, the assholes at school...the whole freakin' world. I realized that I could never change who I really was and how I felt inside my heart; but I could easily change what everyone else saw on the outside. I had to build a wall around myself so that nobody could ever hurt me again. I had always liked skateboarding, so I decided that it would make a good cover. Over the years, not only did I perfect my skating moves, I also perfected my hard-ass `skater persona'. But, what none of them ever knew was that it was always just a mask...an empty shell. On the outside, I still hated the world for what it had done to Billy, but on the inside I was still a lonely, scared, and heartbroken twelve-year-old kid. But, it worked pretty well, I guess...nobody fucks with me anymore, and that's just the way I like it.
The other skaters think I'm just like them, hah! If they ever found out I was an honor roll student, they would totally freak out. They know I'm into computers and stuff, but that seems to be `cool' enough, so they don't have a problem with that. Hell, most of my teachers don't even know. They just think I cheat on the tests or something. All except one: Mr. Brill, my graphic arts and yearbook teacher. He's one of the few who instantly saw through my bullshit act. But, he's been totally cool about it. He never does anything to harm my `rep.'
Until I started on the yearbook crew last year when I was a junior, I was really starting to get swallowed up in my own hate and anger. But, in his own way, Mr. B. has slowly brought me back to the human race. I can mostly deal with other people now, and not totally lose my temper. At times he still drives me crazy, but I realize that he just about saved my life last year. He made me a human being again, I guess. But, I still live every day of my life in fear...the fear of what would happen if people really knew who I was on the inside.
I think that's where my anger really comes from...the fear.