W.A.R. Part Six - Commencement
Chapter Eighteen - Everybody Hurts
by Jeff Wilson
Did you know there's no direct line from Erie to Pittsburgh bus lines on a Friday night? Yeah, I know that now. Just one of many things I learned as I had to find a way home after Brett ditched me in Erie. I spent a few hours in a bus station in Cleveland in the middle of the night as I waited for the connecting bus. That was fun. I had no idea how I was going to get from Pittsburgh back home. I thought about calling mom to come get me, but that was just too embarrassing. In the end, called Emily in the morning.
"You look like shit," she said when she picked me up at nine in the morning.
"You spend the night in a bus station and see how good you look in the morning," I replied.
"So how did you end up in a bus station in Pittsburgh on a Friday night?"
"It's a long story."
"Well it's a long way home," she replied.
So I told her everything. The trip, the years of lying, Brett's reaction to finding out the truth, I even told her who Brett's father is.
"Wow... Remember last week when I said there would come a time when I wanted to punch you in the face? Good news. The time has come."
"Thanks for that. I really appreciate it. You sure know how to make a guy feel better."
"You don't deserve to feel better," Em said. "If I'd have known what you did to Brett, I might have left you in that bus station."
"Look, Em, no one feels worse about what I did than me."
"No, I'd say Brett probably feels a lot worse about it than you."
"I... Okay, that's probably true, but..."
"No, Billy. No buts. You messed up big time. I don't know what made you think it was a good idea to lie to Brett about something so important."
"You just don't understand! I'm not the bad guy here! I wanted to tell him as soon as I found out!"
"But you didn't, Billy! Not only did you keep it from him, you lied to him. Brett didn't deserve that. Brett's not perfect, but he's one of the sweetest guys you're ever going to meet."
"Whatever," I replied. If she was just going to yell at me I didn't want to talk to her anymore. When we got to Donora, she asked me where I wanted to go. I didn't want to do it, but I asked her to drop me off at Brett's house. She offered to go in with me, but I didn't want her to see what was sure to be an ugly situation. She dropped me off and I asked her to leave before I walked up to the front door.
Brett's car was parked in the driveway, so at least I knew he hadn't wrecked on the way home. I couldn't hear any signs of Brett coming from the house. No loud music or anything like that. I walked onto the porch and knocked on the door. There was no answer after a few minutes so I rang the doorbell. There was still no answer and I was about to give up when the door finally opened. But it wasn't Brett who answered the door.
"So you made it back," Joey said. "You've got a lot of nerve showing up here."
"I came to see Brett, not you," I said.
"After what you did maybe Brett doesn't want to see you."
"I don't have time for this," I said. I pushed the door open, knocking Joey aside. I went into the living room and found Brett sitting on the couch smoking a joint.
"Oh that's just great!" I said angrily. "You ditch me two hundred miles from home and then you get plastered with this dickhead!"
"That dickhead is my brother, Billy," Brett replied. "So lay the fuck off him, you lying piece of shit!"
"You realize I had to spend a night in a fucking bus station because of you?"
"You realize I don't give a fuck? I'm so done with you! You had two years to tell me the truth, Billy! Two motherfucking years! If it were just Jack that you didn't tell me about that would have been one thing. But you kept my brother from me! I will never forgive you for that."
"Why don't you just leave Roberts?" Joey said. "He doesn't want to be with you anymore."
"Bite me, Joey," I replied. "You didn't even let me explain why I did what I did, Brett."
"Because I don't care why you did it!" Brett said. "No reason you could have given me could have ever made up for what you did! The thought of spending another three hours with you trapped in a car would have made me sick. I mean, if you'd lie about something like this, what else have you been lying about? Nothing would surprise me at this point!"
"He probably slept with Dustin," Joey chimed in.
"Yeah, I just assumed that to be the case," Brett replied.
"No! Brett I swear that's not true at all! The most we ever did together was a little jerking off together! We never ever had sex, I swear!"
Brett scowled at me with a look of pure hatred. "WHEN THE FUCK DID YOU JACK OFF WITH HIM?!?!?"
Oh shit! Boy did I just step in it! "I... Well... We just jerked each other off a little bit. It was a long time ago..."
"So you're not only a liar, but you're a cheater! Oh, this day just keeps getting better!"
"Brett, I swear to god I never cheated on you!"
"Don't swear to a god you don't even believe in, asshole. Fuck, I don't even know who you are anymore. You used to be the one who I thought I could trust with absolutely anything. I've let you in to places no one has ever even been close to, and I'm not just talking about sex. And now I've come to realize that whoever that boy was who I fell in love with was just an illusion. How could you look me in the eyes and lie right to my face for two years, Billy? How could you hide my brother from me? I never felt the way I did with you with anyone else. But all along it was just a big joke to you."
"Brett, no. It wasn't like that! Look, I know it seems really bad right now, but believe me, I never wanted to hurt you! I wanted to tell you as soon as I found out! Your mom made me keep it from you, and then Jack threatened me."
"Oh, I'll deal with them later. You can believe me when I tell you that. There's a lot of people who are going to pay for what they did. The only person who's been honest with me right from the start was my brother. I'm going to make your stupid best friend pay for what he did with you. I'm going to make Jack pay for lying to me. Oh, and you can say goodbye to your precious internship after I'm through with him."
"The internship never meant anything to me!"
"My dad was probably going to pay him thirty pieces of silver for it," Joey said.
"Shut up, Joey! Look, if you want to be a jerk, Brett, that's your right and I deserve it. I fucked up! But that didn't mean you had to leave me in the middle of nowhere with no way to get home! I could have been killed! What if I hadn't had any money? I could still be up there for god's sake! I know I should have told you right away, and I'm sorry I didn't. But you didn't have to abandon me in the street like an asshole! It cost me fifty bucks to get home!"
"Do you expect me to feel sorry for you? Do you want me to pay you the fifty dollars?"
"That would be nice. That fifty bucks was everything I had."
Brett laughed. "Fuck you! I'm not paying you shit! If anything, you should be paying me for two years' worth of time I could have had with my brother that I'll never get back. The ironing is delicious. For all my life, I was the one without a father while you and your stupid idiot best friend had fathers. You all made fun of me for it. `Stupid Brett is a dumb bastard! What a loser!' But now, I'm the one who has a father and you and your best friend Dustin don't have fathers anymore. Who's the bastard now?"
"Okay, now you're just being stupid. I'm going home."
"Have a nice walk," Brett said.
"You mean you aren't going to let me use the car anymore?"
Brett laughed. "And people think I'm the dumb one! No you can't use my fucking car anymore, asshole! I'm not going to let you use my car to go right to Smith's house so you can cry to him about how I was sooooo mean to you and left you in Erie! Fuck that shit!"
"How am I supposed to get around?"
"You should have thought about that before you decided to play with someone else's dick! I'm through with you, Roberts. I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore. I don't even want to be around you. I can't wait for graduation so I never have to see you again! Get out of my house and get out of my life. Don't even try to talk to me. It's over."
Brett took the necklace from around his neck and threw it on the floor. "If I could do the same thing to the nipple ring I would," he said.
I guess that was the moment it all became real. Everything got blurry and my eyes started to burn.
"Don't start crying, asshole," Brett said. "You did this, not me."
"No, Brett... I still love you! Everything I did, I did to try to protect you! Don't let it end like this. Please! I'm sorry!"
"Fuck you," Brett replied. "You're worse than my mother. The only person you love is yourself. Get the fuck out of my house before I make you get out. Joey, please get him the fuck away from me."
"You heard him, Roberts," Joey said. "Why don't you just leave?"
"I... Okay," I said. I walked to the door and stopped to take one last look back, hoping to see some sign that Brett's heart was just as torn into pieces as mine was, but he just looked pissed off. I opened the door and stepped outside. The door closed behind me and I knew it really was over. I could never go back.
I walked in the direction of the park. I don't know what drew me there, but I ended up sitting by the lake for a long time. I bawled. I mean, slobber everywhere ugly crying, not that single tear movie bullshit. How could I go on without Brett? The whole purpose of lying to him for so long was so I wouldn't lose him. Now he was gone! It seemed hopelessly over. Why hadn't someone along the way smacked me upside the head and told me how stupid I was being? Why did I have to be such a fucking idiot? Why did my life always have to suck balls? I looked at all the happy people doing their happy activities in their smiley, happy little park. I hated them all, each one. How could they be happy when my heart was ripped in half and stomped on?
But the one I hated more than anyone was me. Why did I have to be such a pathetic loser? I had one good thing in my life and I'd destroyed it. My life was over.
After a while, I got up from that bench and walked into the woods. I walked up the hill to the intersection where Dustin's dirt bike still lay at the site of Brett's accident. I hadn't been up there since Brett's accident, so I never realized that Dustin had left it there where it had fallen after it crushed Brett's leg. Seeing it just made me relive the events of that day, and that horrible scream when we'd tried to move Brett. It made fresh tears form in my eyes, so I quickly moved on down the hill toward Dustin's house. When I got there, I knocked and knocked on the door as loudly as I could. I knew Dustin was there because I could hear his godawful country music coming from his room. Dustin did eventually come to the door, wearing no shirt and just a pair of gym shorts.
"Hey Billy. Wow you look like hell! Are you okay?"
"Brett dumped me," I said, the words causing my eyes to sting.
"Aw dude, that's terrible. So he found out you knew about his father then?"
"Oh that's just the beginning. He also knows that we jerked each other off."
"Really? Wow when you decide to tell the truth you just let it all out, don't you? Damn, I really was starting to like him too. Guess that's over now."
"Yeah, I just really need someone to talk to for a while and clear my head. You mind if I hang out with you for a while?"
Dustin hesitated. "Uh, dude, you know that normally that wouldn't be a problem, but..."
"But what?" I asked. Just then, Doug Sanders came walking down the stairs, dressed similarly to Dustin without a shirt and wearing only a pair of gym shorts. And yes, he was as dreamy without a shirt on as I'd imagined. I'd never seen someone look so contentedly satisfied.
"Oh..." I said. "Oh my god, did you fuck Dougie?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," Dustin replied. "And believe me, there was no problem getting the rocket off the launch pad. Actually, we're still on our date."
"Jesus, no wonder he's walking funny," I said.
"Sup Roberts?" Doug asked. "Hey, you missed a quiz in history yesterday. Wow, you look like you shit!"
"Well I slept in a bus station. Well shit! What am I supposed to do now?"
"Guys if I need to go I'll..." Doug began.
"No," I interrupted him. "That's okay. You guys have fun. I'll just go home. Call me later if you want. Well, call my house because I just realized I left my cell phone in Brett's car and I don't really want to go back there."
"You sure you're okay?" Dustin asked. "You don't look good."
"I just need some time to think. Everything I did this year was meant to keep us together, but instead everything I did just drove us apart. I feel like such an idiot."
It wasn't until I reached the top of the hill again that I realized that I hadn't eaten since Brett had ditched me in Erie and I was feeling weak as I walked the rest of the way home. I did make it, though my blood sugar was only twenty-five when I tested it. No wonder I looked like shit. I felt better physically after I ate, though emotionally I was still a mess. I moped around the house for a while, feeling empty and purposeless.
Mom couldn't help but notice my attitude and asked me what was the matter.
"Oh, nothing. Brett hates me, that's all."
"I seriously doubt that."
"He found out about everything, his dad, my lying to him, stuff I did with Dustin years ago... everything. I feel like such an idiot."
"Well, you certainly messed things up. I'd like to think we raised you with enough integrity to do the right thing all the time, but you're human. You're going to mess up. The question is, what are you going to do now?"
"I don't know. I don't want to do anything but crawl in a hole and die."
"And what would that solve? You want to be a man? You need to start acting like one. You made a mistake. A big one, yes, but it was a mistake nonetheless. What will prove your character is what you do now."
Well the weekend sucked. I just spent the whole time in my room listening to sad songs and bawling while laying on my bed. I did at least manage to arrange to get a ride with Emily and Dustin to school so I wouldn't have to suffer the indignation of riding the bus to school. I assumed that Joey would pick Brett up.
I dreaded seeing him in homeroom that first day afterward. I'd been with him for four years, I didn't know what I was going to do without him. I was even still wearing the necklace he gave me. I couldn't bring myself to take it off. However, when I walked into the room, Brett never looked happier. He was surrounded by friends, friends that I thought were ours but must have really just been his who were willing to put up with me because we were together. There he was, laughing and joking and not caring a bit that my heart had been ripped apart. Apparently, that wasn't a problem for him. He never looked better.
He barely even looked at me.
At lunch, he sat with Joey and his friends. I sat there with Dustin and picked at my food. I missed Brett stealing my food. I threw most of it away.
I easily caught up on what I'd missed Friday, not that the teachers really cared at that point. It seemed like everyone was focused on the prom, and that wasn't for another month in May. Except for homeroom and lunch, I didn't see Brett much at all. He was excused from gym class because of his broken leg, and I didn't know where he'd gone off to during that time. Mr. Hartley was as brutal as ever in history class, reminding us of the upcoming final scheduled the Monday after the prom, because he was a dick like that.
And so Monday ended and I'd somehow survived without weeping like a douchebag. That's how the week went. If Brett was hurting in any way over our break-up, he didn't act like it. I was wallowing in self-pity and he was never happier. I wished he would talk to me, even if it was to yell at me. I missed hearing his voice, telling me something stupid, some random observation from his life that he just had to share with me. I missed his hand in mine. I missed his kiss.
Baseball season at least kept me busy with keeping score at the games. The team was decent. We'd make the playoffs but probably lose in the first or second round. All a team had to do was pitch around Dustin and they could cut our run production in half. One team walked him all five times he was up. It didn't hurt his soaring batting average, but it didn't give him a chance to help the team with his bat.
And through it all I remained miserable.
On Friday evening, Joey McKenzie stopped by my house and gave me my cellphone.
"He bought it," I said. "I didn't expect him to give it back to me."
"You left it in his car and I only found it this afternoon. He asked me to bring it to you."
I flipped it open, but the battery was stone dead. I tossed it on the couch where it fell between the cushions to be forgotten about.
"Well that's all I came over for," Joey said. "I'll see you at school."
"Hey wait!" I said. Joey paused. "I... Hey, could you..."
"I'm not your messenger boy. If you've got something to say to him, tell him yourself."
"He won't talk to me."
"Have you tried?" Joey asked.
"Well... No, but he told me not to..."
"Look, Billy. I'm not the best person to be giving out relationship advice, but I will say this, if you want to catch a fish you need to throw a line in the water. This is all new territory for all of us. I've never had a brother before. I kind of like it. But even I can see that he's lost without you."
"Oh sure, that's why every time I see him he's laughing and smiling."
"How often do you see him though, a couple times a day when he's surrounded by friends who know he's miserable and are trying to cheer him up? But what would you know? God, you're still the same selfish jerk you always were. You don't care about Brett. You're just worried about your own misery. You only care about one person."
"That's not true, Joey. I love Brett."
"You love sleeping with him. You love what he does for you. But you don't really love him. If you loved him, you'd be willing to sacrifice everything to be with him. You wouldn't let my dad or your mom or Pastor Carl stop you. You sure as hell wouldn't let Mr. Taylor stop you. But no. You're just as bad as they are. You would let a title or some money keep you from loving someone who would give up his soul for you. You don't deserve my brother. You never did."
Joey left, and I plopped down on the couch and put my head in my hands. Why did my life have to suck so hard?
Thanks for reading. If you have comments you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next time: Somebody I Used to Know