Green Room II
Chapter 48

Well, that little altercation sure screwed the rest of the evening. In my room, I lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling--naked, legs wide apart and hands behind my head. I felt a slight breeze pass over me and imagined my spirit leaving my body so that I could stare down at myself, lying there. I'm not sure why I did that. Maybe I wanted to see what other people saw. Maybe ... maybe I was just getting off on another kinky mission.

For the next few days I buried myself in school books and studied like crazy. It was Wednesday before the howling wind stepped down a notch or two. I hadn't spoken to Melanie since the barbecue--or anyone else now that I think about it. Where the hell had the time gone?

Hey, G, I'm going through a mountain of math papers. Boring, boring, boring! I hope you're not using this crap in the book. Hahahaha! People must think this is the ideal cure for insomnia.

By the way, I've not phoned Brett about visiting Fremantle for the school hols yet. I'll do it soon enough. I see this huge fork in the road now and it's like `yeah, well, which way now?' The big wide world.

I was about to mail G when Graham interrupted me. The moment I opened the front door I knew the grommet was pissed off about something. I spent quality time with him because I figured someone at school needed a lesson in how to treat my little mate. His left cheekbone was bruised. As I discovered later in my room, it was caused by some guy's motorbike helmet. "I was with Joe, standing outside the school gates yesterday when two blokes rode past on a motorbike--one of those farty little 125cc things. The rider did a wheelie so I chirped something. The pillion rider gave me the finger. No prob, I showed him mine in return."

I had to laugh at Graham's hilariously animated telling of the story. "It's not funny, Stuart. So the riders turned around and headed toward us as Craig arrived on the scene."

"Sounds like a lucky break."

"No way. The rider shoved his finger up my nose and told me to watch my back. After the guys took off, Craig wanted to know the story. He'd heard that Joe and I rattled the rider's cage. `It's no biggie,' I explained, `the guys were showing off like they were big men or whatever. So I told them to stop their macho bullshit because they were riding a sewing machine'." That comment cracked me up big time. "Anyway, those assholes were even more pissed off. Craig told me to be careful. He knew those guys, and one of them was a `loose canon' who carried a knife. On top of that, he's a grade ahead of us."

"So where did the bruise come from?"

"This afternoon the same blokes rode past and did another wheelie. The same moron gave me the finger. So I did likewise. They stopped and the dude took off his helmet, walked toward me and started an argument."

"You need to be more careful, Graham, he's a year older than you. You're not exactly the biggest guy in your grade. Okay, so you're strong, but not in the same league as a bigger bloke who's aggro to boot."

"Are you gonna listen to me or what? So, the guy grabbed my shirt and I told him to let go. Instead, he pushed me all over the place while I'm telling him to leave me alone. He didn't listen so my hands found his throat. I pushed him against a wall and told him again to leave me alone. That's when he swiped me with the helmet and caused the bruise. But it didn't end there. He warned that he wasn't through with me yet, and that I'd better be sure to always be surrounded by mates."

I was reminded of my recent predicament of always being told by enemies to watch my back. "How do you intend to handle this situation?"

"Joe and my other mates reckon they can sort these morons out. They've caused shit this whole year, and pick any target they reckon they can handle. If it were Craig instead of me they'd back off pronto."

"How's the cheek?"

"Bloody sore, man. Fuck `em. Let them try whatever. I'm not scared. And I told them so as well. They're always causing shit at school."

I felt sorry for the grommet. It seemed to me that he was in a situation he couldn't handle--all mouth and bravado--but that didn't appear to count for much as I checked his damaged cheek. It was red, and the bone itself was bruised. Obviously, those two bullies meant serious business, but, no, I didn't contemplate getting myself involved.

From what Graham said, I gathered that most of his mates were anti those two dickheads anyway, and willing to give them a bit of stick if necessary. At the same time, I hated to see that little bloke beaten and feeling helpless. I'm aware of how strong he is, and big hearted, but at the end of the day I figure he's not too keen to be involved in a real fight situation with no rules. It also worries me that those two goons might take advantage of the situation because they figure Graham is scared. As big as Graham's mouth is, he's nonetheless nervous about the uncertainty.

On Friday, I was impatient for Graham to arrive home from school so I could phone him and get the latest. "It's cool, Stuart. Those guys are giving me a wide berth. Craig and Joe warned them that I'm capable of flattening them if they tangle with me. They said to Craig, `yeah, he's tough because he always has his mates hanging around'. But Craig told them the little fucker could handle them on his own. Hehehe. He asked the goons if they noticed the size of my hands and the guy said, `yeah, he had his hands around my throat'. Anyway, Stuart, it's cool now after the word spread that I'm dangerous. How cool is that?"

"Glad to hear it."

It's true that Graham is strong, with hands bigger than mine already. Sometimes he fists me on the arm and I try valiantly not to show pain. Hahahaha! `Ouch!' I can't help it. But I figure he'll be okay, my little mate--he handles himself pretty well in both good and bad situations. According to him, his strength has improved since he started metal work at school. It requires fine work with his fingers. He's also resistant to pain, such as heat. So watch out, goons! You've bitten off more than you can chew!

Whenever I thought about the approach of Sunday November 3, I took a deep breath and tried to focus on something else. I had nothing major planned that day but needed to be on my own--maybe hit the surf or climb Wollumbin or stroll along a beach, thinking thoughts of Kyle.

I canceled my date with Melanie last night. I was exhausted from all the study, and suffered serious burnout. Actually, it had been a lousy week. Friday, I wrote the first math paper. I think I did okay. The second math paper is scheduled for the following Friday, so this weekend will be sleep and relax time.

Hi, G. The weekend went WHOOSH! And so did I, but I guess you knew I'd take the easy way out, huh? Oh, my God, what a RUUUUUUUUUUSH! Like the inside of a tube, except more radical like you can't see the end of it. I saw him there. How's that? He was there. He said nothing, just stared at me the whole time. I'm sorry, Kyle. I'm soooooooo fucking sorry for taking the easy way out on the anniversary of your accident. I just couldn't see myself doing the homage thing without suffering a total breakdown.

So that was the way out for me. Was it a crackerjack day? Who knew? I disappeared into the mists of ... hmmm, now I can't remember what I was gonna write there. Hahahaha! How fucked up is that?

No, Bob was unaware of my little excursion into la-la land. He would have been pissed off at me, big time, and sulked the whole day. I'm cool now, though. My mates and I debated whether smoking was addictive or not because it's supposedly non-addictive when you snort it. Anyway, that's what we decided. It's a short rush and then it's all over. Unless you overdo it, it's like a theme park of total fun. And he was there. Okay, he was there in spirit.

So, G, I fucked up badly. It's not what I planned but that's the way it turned out. I planned to maybe climb Wollumbin, to Kyle's special place. He used to enjoy that, even sometimes alone.

This week, I write two history papers and another math paper. Hahahaha! Jesus Christ, Stuart, you better get your act together, you dumbass idiot.

Melanie and Graham? I think they're okay. I haven't heard from them so I guess they're fine. I could phone right now but Melanie made it plain the other night that she needs some space--AGAIN!

It's just as well that November 3 was easy for me. At least I'm not battling like everyone else. Yeah, Go Stuart! Show everyone how strong you are, boyo! Yes!

A couple of the guys I was with on Sunday were tripping, but I chose not to. So I guess it wasn't a total disaster. I wanted to, but I know that will lead to the point of no return if I travel that road. Kinda like a train--if it doesn't stay on the rails it crashes and burns.

I'll climb the mountain after exams are over. The difference will be that it's a day chosen by me and not some lunatic driving at 160kph.

Maybe you can explain to me, Stuart, how you summon the courage to get into a boxing ring with Craig but not the courage to say no to drugs. I don't get it. You've been to hell and back. I would have thought you have better reasons to say no to drugs than I have to say no to tobacco. Hopefully, it's an aberration. I worry about you stuffing up your final exams. AGAIN! Once was bad enough--life is not too generous with second chances.

I also don't understand why you chose to `take the easy way out' on November 3. I re-read some of Kyle's mail. He wrote of a fight between you two, and how miserable he was afterward--how he lost interest in school and the swim team--how he was removed from the team for an upcoming meet. His friend Darren and he walked along a beach while Darren quizzed him about his problems. Kyle lied, choosing not to reveal how much he missed you. When he phoned you at home, your mother answered with the message that you refused to speak to Kyle. Back then, you also took `the easy way out'.
I don't understand what is `easy' about it. How can it be easy if it exacerbates the difficulty? If you chose not to face Craig in the ring would that have been the easy way out? What would it have accomplished? What did you achieve last Sunday by turning your back on Kyle in favor of drugs with your dingaling mates? I stuck my big toe into the surf at a local beach and baptized Kyle's bead necklace and your wristie. I figured that was the least I could do to honor the one and only Kyle, as well as your gift to me.

What do you mean when you say you need to be strong? What do you mean when you say you risked a total breakdown by properly honoring the first anniversary of Kyle's death? The word `strong' is not included in your `Peace, Love, Respect' signoff. But `respect' is. I would have thought respect is the only motivation you need to honor November 3. But you ran away, just as you ran away like a frightened rabbit some years ago when Kyle awakened something about your sexuality. Okay, so you learned to accept that, and everything calmed down. What are you afraid to face this time? The recollections of November 3 last year? The memorial service? The scattering of the ashes? What frightens you? Reality? Is that the purpose of drugs; to make reality vanish? Explain to me how reality can vanish. I don't comprehend.

Yes, I'm disappointed, Stuart, but not surprised. You're a big, strong, blond hunk of muscle but I wonder about your heart. You seem to have sufficient heart to conquer many things, such as your earlier drug addiction, your friendships with Brett, Graham and Melanie, and your relationship with your folks. But you can't accept November 3. Why not? It won't bite you. It's a day to be honored. You know how many Kyle days there are in a year? 365. Yep, there are three hundred and sixty five Kyle days in every year, and an extra one every leap year. The only difference between all the other Kyle days and November 3 and July 1 is that certain days have a more focused significance because of a particular event. However, the fact remains that every day is a Kyle day. Every day is a special day because that's how Kyle lived them.

You're such a worry, Stuart. You have a giant ego but it's made of eggshell. You're simultaneously arrogant and fragile. You face certain problems but retreat from others. You know something, mate? All you need do to find the simple answers is to ask yourself the question: What would Kyle want me to do?

Here's a letter I received from a friend: `One of the sad aspects of Stuart's story is the realization after Kyle's death that he experienced a true and unconditional romantic love and yet he was too self-absorbed and manipulative to appreciate it. When Kyle's body was reduced to ashes, so was Stuart's life. Occasionally he reveals an insight into the bankruptcy of his relationships, and I sometimes wish he would confront this more directly in his writing. His mentions of Kyle reveal how profoundly wounded he is by this experience. He certainly expresses a sense of guilt.'

And this from another friend: `Last Sunday, November 3, it was a sad day for us because it was the anniversary of Kyle's death. You can call me sentimental but I became very sad when I thought of how Kyle's parents will feel this day. I decided to do something positive in the better Kyle style. I went to the beach very early in the morning to watch the sun rise from the sea. It's my modest version of his `Dawn Patrol'. As I like to do, I threw some hibiscus flowers into the sea and said a little prayer for Kyle. I'm not a religious guy but I think if God exists he must be good, and loves people who do good things. I'm sure, a year ago, he waited at the Pearly Gates and said to Kyle, "Come on, boy, we have a lot to do for the people who are still on Earth."