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Ronyx

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About Ronyx

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  1. Chapter 10

    Damn. Here we go again. Another step forward and three steps back. Things had been going pretty well since I’d left the hospital. I was back at Ticker’s house, so I had a safe place to stay. I hadn’t had a drink since my arrest, and I had only smoked a few times with Ticker. I had gone back to school, and except for the incidences with Gene and Barry, most students had paid very little attention to me. I hadn’t missed too much work, and those assignments I had missed, the teachers had cut me a break. That is one of the advantages of being an honor student. Most teachers trusted you to do the work, and they were lenient with the assignments. Then I had made two good friends, Star and Allen. Star was quickly becoming a big influence on me. I felt I could lean on her if I had to, and she didn’t expect anything in return. Even though we were the same age, she was like a mother figure to me. She knew I carried a lot of baggage, and she seemed willing to help me support it. I’d never had that with anyone before. Ticker and I had a certain bond, but it was more like a brotherly love. I knew he was there for me, but I just didn’t feel comfortable opening up to him. Then there was Allen. I can’t even begin to describe what I feel for him. We share something. Maybe it is because both our lives are like a soap opera tragedy that make us close. Like Star wants to mother me, I want to do the same to him. When I held him when he cried, it was like I could feel his sorrow surging through me- and I wanted it. I wanted to feel his pain. But tonight. Shit. When I pulled off Roger’s cock and looked out the window to see the surprised look on Allen’s face, it was like I lost a part of me. I think it was my self-respect. I care about what Allen thinks of me. Why? I can’t explain it. But I do. Now it seems like I have revealed everything about myself to him, and I don’t like it. By the look on his face, he doesn’t either. Surprise turned quickly to disgust. He shook his head and walked away with his head down and his shoulders drooping. And I felt like shit. Before, I had always hated my life. For the first time in my life I felt a new feeling- disappointment. I was disappointed with my life, and that was a new revelation. I saw what I had become. I thought of all the cocks I had wrapped my mouth around, and I realized that I was what my father and the students at school had said I was. It took someone I really cared about to make me see what I had become- a worthless cocksucker. I asked Roger to drop me off at the bridge. No, this time I wasn’t going to jump. I needed to get myself back to me, to the boy who was at one time happy and self-assured. I needed to find myself again. It sounds stupid, but I wanted to relive the feelings I had when I had jumped last week. Most of it seemed like a dream, but I could remember that I had felt something. In not wanting to die, I had given myself a reason to live. For my rebirth, I needed to experience my near death again. What was is it I felt? I’m climbing down the bank. I’ve reached the bottom, and I’m removing my clothes. I stand naked on the shore. The moon is shining down on the river, and I watch it shimmer as the waves lap gently on the shore. What was it I felt? I jump into the frigid water. It’s so cold. My body is shivering violently as I dive deeply back into the water. What did I feel? I fold my arms, cross my legs and I let my body sink to the bottom. Three feet. Four feet. Five feet. Six. I’m getting weak, and I can’t hold my breath much longer. I gasp, and water fills my mouth. I straighten my body and shoot to the surface. I fight to swim back to shore. My body is numb from the cold. I pull myself to the shore and stand and look at the moon. Eighteen! Six! Thirty-five! I scream at the top of my lungs. I howl at the moon like a wounded wolf in the forest. Then I fall to the ground, pull myself into a ball and weep. ******** My body was numb when I finally got up and dressed. I could hardly pull my shirt over my body because I was trembling so badly. I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers as I tied my shoes. But for some unexplainable reason, I felt refreshed. I had once again found me, and I felt whole. In the cold water, I had buried my past. Uncle Mike, my father and mother no longer mattered. I was determined to move forward- and not look back. I made my way to Ticker’s house. When I arrived, my entire body was without feeling. Ticker’s mother shrieked when she saw me. Mr. Wendelmeier ran from the living room and grabbed me just before I fell to the ground. Ticker rushed downstairs and lifted me up as if I was a child. He and his father carried me to the bathroom, removed my clothing and then submerged me in warm water. “I’ll call 911!” Ticker’s mother cried as she came into the bathroom and saw me still shivering violently. “No!” I screamed. “Please,” I begged. “I don’t want to go to the hospital.” His mother looked at me worriedly and then agreed not to call for an ambulance; at least not immediately. Ticker sat on the side of the tub and wiped my exposed chest with a wash towel. After about a half hour, I could feel the warm water on my skin. He lifted me from the tub and handed me a large towel. He disappeared as I wiped the water from my body. A minute later, he returned and handed me a pair of flannel pajamas which I assumed were probably Arthur’s. He then led me to his bed and covered me with several blankets. When he turned out the light, I fell exhaustedly into a deep sleep. I awoke in the middle of the night. Ticker’s mother was sitting on the side of the bed feeling my forehead. She smiled gently at me when I opened my eyes. “How are you feeling, Honey?” “I’ll be all right,” I assured her. I closed my eyes and fell back to sleep. I was disoriented when I woke up. The sun was shining brightly inside the room. I looked over at an alarm clock on a book shelf. It read 1:23. I sat up and looked around the room. I noticed a note on the bed stand. It was in Ticker’s handwriting. It read, ‘Don’t leave until we have a chance to talk.’ There were fresh clothes lying at the end of the bed. They were a little snug on me. I figured they probably again belonged to Arthur. If they had been Ticker’s, I would have had to wrap them around my body a couple of times. I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. No one seemed to be home. I made a bowl of cereal and sat at the table eating. A small television on the counter was playing a soap opera. I idly watched it. It made me laugh several times. I thought I had problems. They were nothing compared to some of the ridiculous plots I was watching. Just when some guy’s girlfriend was going to confront his wife that she was pregnant for the third time with her husband’s baby, I heard the front door open. Seconds later, Ticker walked into the kitchen with Star. She ran over and threw her arms around me. Ticker looked surprised by her actions. I think he was confused about our relationship. He didn’t know that she knew I was gay. “Are you all right?” She stood back and rubbed her hand gently across my cheek. “Yeah,” I said. “Actually, I’ve never felt better.” “Ticker told me what happened last night.” She looked over at him, and he nodded. “I’m going to be all right.” I pulled her into a hug, squeezing her tightly. Then I astonished Ticker when I walked over and gave him a huge hug. “Thanks, Guys,” I said appreciatively. “You have no idea how you’ve helped me.” Star stepped back and looked at me questioningly. “There’s something different about you.” I struck a comical pose. “Same old me,” I laughed. My silly action brought smiles to their faces. Star then looked over at Ticker and asked, “Is there some place that Joey and I can go and talk privately?” “You can use my bedroom,” he said. “I’ll watch television for a while.” “Good,” I laughed. “Let me know if old dude’s wife finds out about his three kids with that girl named Holly.” “Oh!” shrieked Star. “I love that show! If Larry’s wife finds out he’s been having an affair with...” “Enough!” shouted Ticker. “I’m not going to watch a stupid soap opera. There’s a soccer game on right now.” “Eww.” Star stuck up her nose. “Barry loves soccer. Must be a guy thing.” “I don’t like soccer,” I announced proudly. Ticker looked at Star and laughed. “Like you said, it’s a guy thing.” I walked over and hit Ticker on his arm. He laughed and retreated into the living room while I followed Star upstairs to his bedroom. Once there, she sat on Ticker’s bed and patted it, indicating she wanted me to sit beside her. “What happened last night?” “Nothing really,” I kidded. “I just went for a late night swim.” “Not that,” she frowned. “What happened between you and Allen? I went by his place last night, and he seemed really upset about something. When I asked if you had been by, he got really angry.” “Why did he say he was mad?” I was curious if he told her he saw me giving a guy a blow job in a car. “He didn’t,” she replied. “He told me he didn’t want to talk about you. It was strange because he’s talked about nothing but you for a week. I don’t think I’ve seen him happier than the other night.” I hung my head. I had done it again. I touched someone’s life and left another shit pile. I had no idea how to get myself out of this mess. In the past, I would have walked away and not cared; but I didn’t want to leave Allen’s life, at least not without an explanation. Star reached over and lifted my face. “He cares about you, Joey. For the past couple of days, he has seemed alive again. Then last night I saw it in his eyes again.” “Saw what?” Tears started appearing in her eyes. “No will to live.” I buried my hands in my head. Star put her hand on my back and rubbed it gently. For some reason, I didn’t feel like crying. I wanted to make things right, but I didn’t know how. “Will he see me?” “I don’t know,” she stated sadly. “He didn’t want me to mention your name last night. What happened between you? Did you have a fight?” “It was nothing like that,” I replied. “I really can’t tell you what happened.” She studied my face, searching for an answer. I knew she was totally clueless as to what had happened, but even this was too much to tell someone. I needed to talk to Allen; but from what Star had said, I didn’t think he would speak to me. She got up off the bed and looked down at me. “I’ll try and talk to him again tonight. It would sure help if I knew what was going on.” I rose and took her hand. “Trust me, Star. This is something I really can’t tell you about.” My past was now something that I found extremely embarrassing. I realized that if it was something I couldn’t even confess to someone I trusted, then it was something that I shouldn’t have been doing. “Okay.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. Before leaving the room, she turned and gave me one final look. “I hope things turn out for you two.” “Me too.” After she left, I sat on the edge of Ticker’s bed and tried to figure out a way to talk to Allen once again. From what Star had indicated, he must have felt something for me since she said he never stopped talking about me. I just hoped it wasn’t too late. “Hey.” Ticker opened the door and peeked in. “Can I come in?” “It’s your room, Asshole,” I laughed. “Sure. Come in.” “What’s going on?” Ticker asked. “I was surprised when Star came up to me today at school and asked to see you.” I looked blankly around the room. Then I turned to Ticker. “You ever been in love?” “You’re in love with Star?” he asked excitedly. “I thought you were gay?” “Shut up, Dumbass,” I laughed. “I’m not in love with Star. Well, I am, but not like you think.” “I’m confused.” Ticker looked questioningly at me. “Me too, Ticker,” I replied. “Me too.” I had no idea what I was feeling. Ever since meeting Allen, I thought about him constantly. I relived that day we first met on the bridge over and over in my mind. For years it had always been about me. Now I found myself worrying over someone else. I couldn’t understand why he was so upset with me. Okay. He figured out I was a hustler. But he told me that he had led a wild past, so why should that bother him? To me, it was just something else we had in common. If anyone should understand, it would be him. Then there was his health. That worried the hell out of me. I had just met him. I don’t think I could stand to lose him so quickly. Everything inside me told me that I should just walk away and not get involved, but I can’t. He needs me. And the funny thing is, I think I need him even more. It seems like since I met him I was undergoing a transformation of the spirit. He and Star were making me look at my life and reevaluate it. I now realize I can’t change my situation, but I can change me. ******** Star was waiting for me outside school when I arrived with Ticker. “Your girlfriend is waiting for you,” announced Ticker when he saw her standing patiently outside the large front doors of the school. I looked over, and for the first time since I have known Ticker, he seemed jealous. I wasn’t sure if it was because he thought I had a new best friend, or if he thought I was romantically interested in Star. I’ve mentioned before that Ticker is a large guy. I knew he was into girls because I had occasionally seen him looking at some porn sites on his computer. However, I never pictured him with a girl. It was something that never occurred to me. I guess I always saw him as asexual or something. It’s kind of like you never think about your parents having sex. But sitting next to him, I realized that like me, he too had grown up. He probably was thinking about dating and having a girlfriend. However, how does someone as big as a guy like Ticker go about attracting a girl? Slim, tanned, athletic guys don’t have any problems. But who would want a two hundred and seventy-pound red head? Besides, Ticker’s idea of exercising is pushing himself away from the table after a large meal. “I told you she’s not my girlfriend,” I assured him. I didn’t want to tease him any longer by thinking that I was romantically involved with her. “She’s just a good friend.” “Yeah, sure,” he replied. Suddenly I saw a twinkle in his eye. “Then it wouldn’t bother you if I asked her out?” “What!” I shouted. Ticker’s already red face turned to scarlet. “You like Star?” “Well,” he said embarrassedly, “she is really pretty.” I watched as his eyes wandered over to where she was standing. “Does she already have a boyfriend?” “I don’t think so,” I informed him. “I’ve never heard her talk about one.” “Good,” he smiled. He got out of the car and I trailed behind him as he strode over to where Star was standing. He said hello to her and then entered the building. My first instinct was to make a joke about Ticker liking her, but then I decided to keep quiet and let things take a natural course. I liked the idea of Ticker and Star together, although I didn’t know if she was interested in dating someone. “We’ve got a problem,” she said seriously as she grabbed my arm and began walking me into the building. “What?” The first thing that jumped into my mind was that there was more gossip concerning me. “When I read over the paper you wrote for English Lit,” she held the report in the air, “I realized I can’t turn this in. He’ll never believe I wrote something as good as this.” “I tried to tell you,” I laughed. “Didn’t you work on it at all?” “I tried,” she responded sadly, “but you know me and Wadsworth.” “When is it due?” “I’m going to ask Mr. Vicks for another day.” Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea. “Why don’t you ask Ticker to help you?” Ticker wasn’t the brightest light when it came to math, but he was a really good writer. He had let me read a few of his short stories and poems in the past. Most of them dealt with fantasy and science fiction, but he showed tremendous talent. We had even talked about him attending college and majoring in literature. Star asked hopefully, “You think he would?” “We’ll ask him at lunch,” I said. I was delighted that getting Ticker and Star together had fallen unexpectedly into my lap. Ticker became extremely nervous when I asked him if he’d help Star with her report after school. “Why can’t you do it?” “He did last night,” chimed in Star. “But it sounds too good for me. He writes like a college professor.” He gave me a defensive stare. “So, you think I can’t write?” “No,” I stammered. This was becoming a mess. I thought I was helping him by arranging a date with Star to work on her project, and he took it that I thought he was a bad writer. “Let’s go outside a minute.” I nodded to the door and got up from my chair. “We’ll be right back,” I informed Star. Ticker hesitantly got up and followed me out the door. “You dumbass.” He winced when I punched him lightly in his stomach. “I’m trying to set you and Star up.” “Oh?” He gave me a questioning look which soon turned to a wide grin. “Oh,” he said loudly. I gave him a shove toward the cafeteria door. “Now go in there and tell her you’ll help her after school.” I watched as he ambled back to the table and sat down. A minute later, she pulled the report out of her book bag. I smiled when he scooted his chair nearer to her and looked at the paper I had written. Not wanting to interrupt them, I decided to head outside. Billy Joe and Camille were sitting on a ledge talking quietly. When he looked up and saw me, he motioned for me to join them. As usual, Camille ran her eyes over my body as I approached. “What’s up?” Billy Joe asked. “Nothing new,” I replied. “How about you?” “Same old, same old,” he replied. I became uncomfortable when Camille reached out and began rubbing her hand over my chest. “When are me and you going to get together, Hon?” she cooed. I looked at Billy Joe, expecting some kind of reaction; but it didn’t seem to bother him. “I don’t think so.” I pulled her hand away from my chest and took a step back. “If it’s that gay thing,” she said, “then we can get Billy Joe to join us.” She turned to him. “You don’t mind, do you?” He looked undaunted by her question; it was as if she had just asked him what the temperature outside was. “Sorry,” I said quickly before he had a chance to respond. “It’s not my thing.” “Too bad,” he responded as he scanned my body. He reached into his pocket and produced a joint. “Let’s go kill this before the bell rings.” Reluctantly, I followed them behind the building. Our conversation had gotten a little weird, and I wasn’t sure if they were going to try and seduce me into having a threesome with them. I liked Billy Joe, but I didn’t find him sexually attractive. And I found the prospect of having sex with Camille nauseating. Nothing more was said as we smoked the joint. Both continued to stare at me, but they didn’t make any more sexual comments. My first impression of Billy Joe had been that he was gay. But then he seemed to be sexually attracted to Camille. I now realized that he was probably bisexual. “We’re throwing a party Saturday night,” stated Billy Joe. “Why don’t you come?” “I don’t think so,” I replied. “I don’t enjoy going to parties.” Actually, I didn’t know if I did or didn’t since I had never been invited to one before. “Ticker will be there,” announced Camille. “And since you’re staying with him now, why don’t you come?” “I’ll talk to Ticker about it,” I replied. He hadn’t said anything about a party, so I didn’t know if he wanted me to be there or not. I knew he was invited to a lot of parties because he usually supplied the host with weed for the evening. Just then the bell rang. Camille reached out and once again rubbed my chest. “We’ll be looking for you, Hon.” She brought her hand up and patted my cheek before she and Billy Joe walked away. I headed to the library after school to see if I could support Ticker. I knew he was very nervous helping Star. Even though they had known each other for a while, it would still be the first time he was alone with her. When I entered, I stood off to the side and watched them. They were huddled together and working enthusiastically on the assignment. I couldn’t hear what Ticker was saying, but it was obvious Star found it amusing. Several times she put her hand to her mouth and giggled loudly. I smiled as the librarian looked over and told them to hush. It was apparent they were greatly enjoying each other’s company. I left the library and headed downstairs. I planned to go home with Ticker, but I didn’t want to wait for him. Besides, he would probably take Star home, and I didn’t want to be in the way. When I walked out of the school, I had intended to go to Ticker’s house. But halfway there, I turned around and headed toward the downtown district. Allen had been on my mind all day. I needed to talk to him and try to clear things up between us. He needed a reason why he had seen me with Roger. I wasn’t sure what I’d say to him, but I hoped I would at least make him understand that I needed to do it to survive. If he didn’t want to see me after that, then at least I can say I tried. Nervously, I knocked on the door to his apartment, but he didn’t answer. I waited a few minutes and then knocked harder. If he was asleep, my pounding had to have awakened him. After several more minutes, I decided to leave. I stopped by the coffee shop and peered in the window, but I didn’t see him inside. Deciding that it was useless to look for him any longer, I went back to Ticker’s house. He was in his room when I arrived. He was lying on his bed, but he wasn’t asleep. When I walked in, he jumped up and sat on the side of the bed. “Did you help Star with her assignment?” “Yeah,” he grinned. “What happened to you?” “I stopped by,” I kidded him, “but you looked like you were having too much fun.” I laughed when his face reddened. “Yeah, well,” he stammered. “We did have fun.” “And?” I raised my eyebrows. “And, what?” His face reddened even deeper. It was fun watching my friend squirm. “Are you going to see her again?” “Um,” he muttered nervously. “Yeah. She’s going to a party with me Saturday night.” “Really?” For a second I became jealous. Billy Joe said he had invited Ticker, but he hadn’t said anything to me. “Yeah,” he said. “Didn’t Billy Joe ask you? He said he was going to invite you.” “He did,” I informed him. “At lunch.” “Good,” smiled Ticker. “We can all go together.” “I don’t want to be in the way,” I replied. If Ticker was getting serious about Star, I didn’t want to interfere. I knew he’d feel uncomfortable with me around since Star and I were very close. “You won’t be.” He stood up and pulled me into a hug. “Thanks, Man,” he whispered in my ear. All through dinner, I teased Ticker about his date with Star. His mother and father were thrilled that he was finally dating. He kept insisting that it wasn’t a date, but I continued to embarrass him. Even Arthur got into the act. He offered to supply him with condoms, which resulted in a stern look from his father. As we were eating dessert, the phone rang. Mrs. Wendelmeirer got up and went into the living room. She returned a minute later and announced that Star was on the phone. Ticker started to get up, but she stopped him. “She wants to talk to Joey,” she said worriedly. “She was crying and saying something about a boy named Allen.”
  2. Chapter 9

    The inner workings of a school are strange. Even though I’d been involved for over ten years, it still never failed to amaze me how the rumor mill works. I guess since I never really acquired friends, I had stayed relatively uninvolved. When Star and I entered the building, the halls were quiet. Glancing at the clock in the hallway, it was the middle of first period. I thought I would take a chance on going to class without first getting a pass. The room was abuzz when I walked in. Mr. Taylor, my economics teacher, was sitting at his desk reading the newspaper. The students were sitting at their desks talking. It was an advanced economic theory class, and we had been assigned a research paper that was due in three weeks. Mr. Taylor expected us to work on it in class, but he didn’t really care as long as it was done and met his rigid expectations. I had been about half way through writing mine when I walked out last week. A couple of students looked up when I entered, but they quickly returned to their conversations. I waited a few minutes for their barrage of derogatory statements, but I didn’t hear any. “Can you believe it?” I leaned back and tried to listen to Stacy, the girl sitting behind me. “I heard they’ve been seeing each other for months.” I soon realized I wasn’t the subject of her conversation. After several minutes, I was finally able to pick up bits and pieces of what had everyone so excited. From what I gathered, Mr. Haywood, a computer science teacher, had been seeing a sophomore girl. The rumors were that he had gotten her pregnant, and her mother had called the police to have him arrested. The same thing happened in my other morning classes. By third period, the rumors had progressed to where Mr. Haywood and Ginger McIntosh, the girl involved, had run away to Mexico. The FBI was trying to track them down somewhere in Tijuana. Personally, I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t know either of them. I have seen Mr. Haywood in the halls before. He is a middle-aged man with a large belly and a receding hairline. I figured that this Ginger girl had to desperate to want to be involved with someone like him. One thing I was glad of though, no one paid any attention to me. It was as if my sudden disappearance from school had gone unnoticed. On my way to the cafeteria after third period to meet Star, I was a little nervous because it would be the first time I would have to confront Ticker after leaving his house suddenly days earlier. After calling him last night, I was confident he wasn’t mad at me. However, I still didn’t want an emotional reunion to occur in the cafeteria. As I left the north wing and headed to the cafeteria, someone bumped into me, sending my books flying out of my hands and onto the floor. “Watch out, Faggot!” I looked over, and Gene Albright was staring angrily at me. His fists were balled tightly as if he was waiting for me to fight him. Again, Barry and another boy were standing behind him trying to instigate him to hit me. “Fuck him up, Gene!” yelled Barry loudly. “Hit the queer!” shouted the other boy. Students stopped and waited to see if we were going to fight. Since it was lunch time, they didn’t want to miss any of the short thirty minutes we are allotted. It wasn’t like missing the first few minutes of a class. Gene looked at me again with apprehension in his eyes. I could tell he didn’t want to fight me, but that he had been pushed into the confrontation we were now facing. “We still have some unfinished business,” he announced loudly. “I haven’t forgotten, Fag.” He pushed me back, but not hard enough for me to lose my balance. He then nodded at Barry and the other boy, and they strode off toward the cafeteria. Barry threw his arm around Gene’s back and patted him several times. I leaned down, picked up my books and headed to the cafeteria. Star was sitting at a table with Ticker when I entered. Ticker started to stand, but Star put her hand gently on his arm. I walked over and nervously sat down. Star said, “You’re late.” Ticker looked away and refused to look over at me. “I ran into a little trouble,” I informed her. Ticker looked at me, and I could see the hurt in his eyes. “Look, Ticker,” I started. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” His lip started to quiver and he stood up, trying hard not to break down in front of everyone. “Not here.” I watched him walked away. I started to get up, but Star stopped me. “He’s a good friend, Joey,” she said. “He loves you like a brother. You need to talk to him and tell him what’s going on inside.” I nodded and got up from the table. I knew where to find him. He was sitting on a table overlooking the football stadium. He remained motionless when I sat down beside him. “Ticker,” I began. “We go way back. You’re the best friend, the only friend, I’ve had the past five years.” I looked over and he gave me a brief look. Tears were in the corner of his eyes. “You know how fucked up my life has been. But through all the shit, I always knew one thing- you were there for me. Always. I love you for that, Man.” We sat for about a minute without saying anything more as we looked out over the football field. There was a cool breeze blowing, and it felt refreshing. I looked up into the sky and let the warm rays beat down on my face. Suddenly, Ticker got up and looked at me. A grin appeared on his face as he reached into his pocket and produced a joint. He turned and walked away, heading for the bleachers. I followed for a few feet, and then I ran up beside him. He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into his burly body. It felt good to have my best friend back. We took several drags off the joint before Ticker finally spoke. “Mom’s not mad at you,” he said. “She’s been worried sick. She cried last night after I told her I had talked to you.” I didn’t know what to say. After all this time, I had assumed that she was mad at me for showing up at her house in a drunken stupor. I still couldn’t forget the look of horror on her face when I came in that afternoon. As if he had read my mind, Ticker added, “My brother comes home drunk almost every weekend. It just surprised her to see you like that.” “But,” I started to speak, but Ticker stopped me. “No buts, Joey,” he said. “She- we- want you to come back home.” He handed me the joint and I took a deep hit. I handed it back and then put my arms around Ticker. “Thanks, Ticker.” He started to put his arms around me before he stepped back and laughed. “This is just a little too gay,” he laughed. “I have a reputation to uphold.” “Yeah,” I agreed. Just then the bell rang. “We’d better head in.” Ticker said as he put his hand around my shoulder and led me back into the building. I guess he really didn’t care too much about his reputation. I didn’t see Star again until after my fifth period class. She was waiting outside my room when I exited. “Are you busy after school?” She had a desperate look on her face. “No,” I answered. “Why?” “I really have to do this report on Wadsworth,” she moaned. “It’s due tomorrow.” “Sure,” I smiled. “I’ll be glad to help you with Wordsworth.” “Wadsworth, Wordsworth, whatever,” she replied as she turned and walked down the hall. She was waiting when I entered the library. She had her Lit book open and was completely engrossed in her reading to notice me. I stepped up beside her and started to recite, “I have walked through wildernesses dreary And today my heart is weary; Had I now the wings of a Faery, Up to thee would I fly." Star looked up from the book she had her head buried in and started laughing hysterically. “What’s so funny?” “Did you just call yourself a fairy?” She put her hand over her mouth and continued to laugh. “No, Smarty Pants,” I responded. “If you had bothered to read the poems, you’d know it was from ‘To a Skylark.’ “Isn’t that a bird?” she asked innocently. “Oh, God!” I moaned as I sat down and pounded my head on the table. My action got me a stern look from the librarian. “Just how much have you read?” I could tell by the blank look on her face what the answer was going to be. “I read, ‘Up Leaps My Heart.” “Help me, please?” I made a praying motion and looked upward. “It’s, “My Heart Leaps Up.’” “Oh.” “And it was about?” Again, the ever-present blank stare. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “It was talking about a heart, I guess.” I sat and looked dumbfounded at her. “How can someone so pretty and smart be so dumb when it comes to literature?” “Maybe my mother didn’t read to me when I was a child,” she suggested. I started laughing. “I don’t think that’s a valid argument.” Again, the librarian gave me a warning glare. Suddenly, Star stiffened and sat erect. Her eyes narrowed in anger. I turned and saw Barry charging over to our table. “I thought I told you not to talk to this faggot anymore?” “Shut up, Barry.” Star stood up and faced her brother. “You don’t tell me who I can and can’t see.” “I can when you’re talking to this fag.” He looked over at me angrily and said, “You should have drowned in that river.” You could hear the slap throughout the library when Star struck her brother on his left cheek. The librarian rushed over and stood between them. “Young Man!” she shouted at Barry. “I told you last week I didn’t want you in here causing trouble. I want you out of here right now!” He looked around her and pointed his finger at me. “This isn’t over. Maybe Gene doesn’t have the balls to fight you, but I do.” The librarian grabbed his arm and started leading him from the library. “I said stay away from my sister!” he shouted over his shoulder as he exited the room. The librarian walked over and got on the phone. She was probably calling security. Star sat down and began to put her books away. “Sorry,” she said timidly. “Don’t go,” I pleaded. “If you leave, he wins.” I gave her a serious look, which soon turned to a grin. She tried to suppress a smile, but it began to form in the corner of her mouth. She knew I was reminding her of her argument for me returning to school. “Yeah,” she agreed. “He wins.” We worked for the next hour on her assignment. Or I should say, I worked for the next hour. She sat idly by and pretended she understood what I was saying. I probably would have had more success with a bookshelf understanding what I was talking about than Star. When we finished, I realized I had completely written the report for her. “Thanks.” She snatched it from my hand and quickly put it in her book bag when she realized I was having second thoughts about giving it to her. “Don’t you think Mr. Vickers is smart enough to know my writing from yours?” “I’ll go back over it tonight and rewrite it,” she said. “I’ll be sure and misspell a few words. He’ll never know.” “I’m not sure about that,” I replied. “For someone who doesn’t know Wordsworth from Wadsworth, this may be a little too well-written.” “I said I’d misspell some words.” She sounded like that was all she needed to do to make Mr. Vickers believe she had written it. I had to remember the next time to make it appear a student in his regular class had written it, instead of someone in an advanced class. “Are you going to see Allen tonight?” I asked. She looked at me and smiled. “Yes. Why don’t you come with me?” “I really can’t,” I informed her. “I should go to Ticker’s house tonight. We kind of made up at lunch.” “Good,” she said happily. “Tell Allen I’m sorry.” “For what?” “I don’t know,” I responded worriedly. “He seemed mad at me when we left this morning.” “That’s just Allen,” she assured me. “He has his moods.” “You’ve said that before,” I laughed. “Anyway, tell him I’m sorry for whatever I did.” “I will.” She got up and kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” After going to my locker, I left through the side exit nearest the parking lot. I saw Barry and Star heading toward his car. He was holding her arm tightly, and she seemed to be resisting getting into the car with him. I watched for a few minutes as they argued inside the car. He finally started the engine and pulled away. I couldn’t understand what his problem was. Until I met Star, I couldn’t even remember seeing him around. From what she said, he played on the football and baseball teams. He sat on the bench most of the time and watched Gene play. On the way to Ticker’s house, my stomach started to tie in knots. By the time I reached his house, I felt physically sick. I knew I had to confront his mother again, and I didn’t want to see the disappointment in her face. She had been nice enough to take me into their home, and I had repaid her by coming in drunk and then running away for several days. Suddenly, the door opened and Ticker’s little brother, Arthur, came bounding out the door. He nodded at me and hurried on. It appeared that my reappearance at his home wasn’t anything unusual. I entered the open door and looked around. I thought I should go back out, close the door and then ring the doorbell. Before I had a chance, Ticker’s mother came out of the kitchen drying her hands on her apron. “Hello, Joey,” she said warmly. There didn’t seem to be any animosity or disgust in her voice. “Ticker is in his room. Why don’t you go on up. Dinner will be ready in an hour.” I approached her and started to speak. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Wend..” She abruptly cut me off. “Dinner will be ready in an hour.” She smiled, turned and headed back into the kitchen, leaving me wondering why she didn’t want to speak to me about what had happened. Ticker was at his desk chewing on the eraser of a pencil. He looked at me when I entered. “Man, this shit is kicking my ass,” he moaned. “I just can’t get it.” I looked over and noticed an Algebra II book lying opened. I immediately felt guilty because I knew last year he was struggling in math class, but I did nothing to help him. I had my own problems, and I didn’t feel it was my duty to tutor him. “What’s the problem?” I took off my jacket and sat on the edge of his bed. He handed me the problem he was working on. It said to evaluate {7-[7-5(5-7)+6]}+4. He looked at me expectantly. It was a basic algebraic equation, and it only took me a few seconds to figure out the answer. I handed him back the paper and said, “Negative 12.” “How the hell did you do that?” he asked surprisingly. “You didn’t write anything down.” I wanted to tell him it was a simple problem, but then I realized it would make him appear dumb. So, I pulled over a chair that was sitting nearby and sat down beside him. I spent the next hour explaining to him how to solve similar problems he had been assigned. When we finished, he sat back and smiled at me. “In an hour I understood this shit better than sitting in a class for two years.” He held the paper up and looked with pride at the problems he had solved. “You should be a teacher,” he said jokingly. “Yeah, right,” I shot back. “I have a criminal record now.” “No, you don’t,” he responded. “I thought Mrs. Fulton didn’t press charges against you.” “You’re right.” I then recalled that Mrs. Fulton had released me to Ticker’s dad and had dropped the charges against me as long as I stayed out of trouble. To my knowledge, she didn’t know about my recent transgressions. Mrs. Wendelmeier hollered up the stairs, “Dinner is ready, Boys!” “Let’s go, Teach.” Ticker got up and extended his hand to help me up. I expected the dinner table mood to be restrained, but as soon as we sat down a lively discussion erupted between Mr. Wendelmeier and Arthur as to which direction computer technology would next advance. Being a typical teenager, Arthur argued that he thought the future was in video games. His father argued that it would revolutionize the work force. Both made convincing arguments, and I was impressed how intelligent both father and son appeared. I also wondered where Ticker got his lack of mathematical understanding. Even his mother seemed knowledgeable on the subject. Nothing was said of my sudden disappearance the past few days. By the end of the meal, I was feeling a part of the family and found myself contributing to the debate. Arthur smiled when I tended to agree with him, but added that music and the film industry would also be heavily influenced by a new wave of technology. As we were clearing our plates off the dinner table, Mr. Wendelmeier asked to speak to me alone. I gave Ticker a questioning look, but he just shrugged his shoulders. I followed his father outside to the backyard patio. I waited nervously while he lit a cigarette and took a couple of puffs. He looked out onto the yard as if he was assessing the landscape. “I’ve always given my boys a bit of a loose rope when it came to raising them,” he finally broke the silence. “I try to set a good example and hope that they will follow it.” Again, there was a long pause before he spoke. “I only get involved when I feel they have crossed the line.” He turned and stared into my eyes. “You crossed that line, Joey.” I hung my head, embarrassed by his words. His words were soft and quiet, but they hurt me more than any verbal assault my father had ever thrown at me. “I don’t know why you ran off, but I hope it won’t happen again.” Without lifting my head, I could tell he was staring at me. Finally, I looked up and met his eyes. “It won’t, Sir. I promise.” “Fine.” He tossed his cigarette into the yard. “Eleanor would shoot me if she saw me do that,” he laughed. He turned and started to walk away. He then stopped suddenly and turned toward me. “One other thing, Joey.” Our eyes met. “I’m a quiet man, but I listen well. If you ever have a problem, don’t be afraid to come to me.” “I will, Sir,” I responded softly. He turned, and I watched as he walked back into the house. I had to fight back the tears that were emerging. Mr. Wendelmeier in his quiet manner had shown more fatherly concern for me in a few minutes than my own father had in seventeen years. I now understood where Ticker received his big heart. I went back upstairs to Ticker’s room. He and Arthur were engaged in a lively video game battle. I stood and watched them for a minute before I walked over and climbed into the cot. I reached for the phone beside Ticker’s bed and dialed Star’s number. “Hello?” Star again seemed tired. I guess attending school during the day, working with me after school and then spending the evening with Allen was very exhausting. “How is everything?” I asked. “Are you home?” “I just got in,” she informed me. “I need to rewrite that paper.” I smiled thinking about her trying to decide which words to misspell to make it look like it was authentic. “How’s Allen?” “He was a little tired tonight,” she replied. “I wish he’d take his medication.” “Did he say anything about me?” “Should he?” I could tell she was trying to suppress a giggle. “Come on, Star,” I whined. “Don’t tease me.” “All right,” she replied. “We’ll talk about this tomorrow. I’m tired, and I have to get to bed sometime tonight.” “All right,” I sighed. There was no use in trying to get any more information. I would have to wait until later to find out what had upset him this morning. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” I lay on the bed and closed my eyes as I listened to Ticker and his brother fight a battle over who would be the next emperor of the universe. I figured Arthur must have won when I heard Ticker call him a ‘bratty little fucker.’ “Let’s take a walk.” Ticker was standing over me with a joint in his hand. I got up and followed him outside. We walked to the park and sat on the swing as we passed it back and forth. “This is some good shit,” I said as I handed him back the joint. After a few puffs, I could feel its effects. “Only the best,” laughed Ticker as he inhaled deeply and then began coughing. “Good shit.” We talked for a few minutes and then headed home. When we were about a block from his house, I noticed a familiar car heading our way. “Don’t Joey,” Ticker pleaded. “It’s only Roger,” I assured him. “Besides, I need the money.” “Joey,” he replied. “Dad will buy you anything you need.” “I don’t want to be a charity case, Ticker.” I stood and faced him. “It will be all right. It’s only Roger. I’ll be back in about an hour.” Just then Roger honked his horn, and I ran over and got in. I looked out the window at Ticker and saw a disappointed look on his face. Roger drove around town looking for a safe spot. We were afraid to go to our usual place behind an abandoned warehouse when we saw a police car slowly cruising the street. We finally ended up pulling over to the curb on an isolated side street. It was only about a block from Shultz Dry Cleaning. Since it was late at night, there were no cars in sight. “Get me off, Kid,” Roger said with a sense of urgency. It had been over a week since I had last serviced him, so I knew he was horny. He pulled his cock out, and I leaned over and took it in my mouth. “Yeah, Kid,” he moaned, “that feels good.” I continued to rapidly suck Roger’s cock. I just wanted him to cum so I could collect my money and head back to Ticker’s house. “Shit!” hollered Roger. He reached down, grabbed his pants and began pulling them up. “Someone just walked up and saw us.” My heart started pounding. I was afraid that we might have been busted by an undercover cop. I sat up quickly and looked out the window. Allen’s eyes widened when he saw it was me in the car.
  3. Chapter 8

    Allen slept against my shoulder for about an hour before he awoke. He sat up and looked over at me. He seemed a little disoriented as he tried to figure out what I was doing in his apartment. “You feel all right?” He nodded, got up and went into the restroom. A minute later, I heard the shower running. I watched a movie on the television until I heard a loud thud. “Damn!” Allen shouted. I jumped from the sofa and rushed to the restroom. The door was unlocked, so I opened it. Allen was lying naked in the tub. It appeared he had fallen and hurt himself. “Are you okay?” I knelt and peered into the tub, examining his body for any injuries. “I don’t know,” he responded nervously. “Help me up.” He held out his hand, and I helped him out of the tub. He stood naked in front of me while I examined his body. “Nothing seems broken,” I announced. He winced when I put my hand on a red spot on his back. It looked like the beginnings of a large bruise. “Does that hurt?” “Yeah,” he winced again. “Let’s get you dry and then to bed.” I grabbed a nearby towel and started wiping his body. “I can do that myself.” He sounded irritated, but he didn’t stop me. He almost purred when I started drying his wet hair. “That feels good.” His eyes met mine. They were wet with tears. “It’s been a long time since someone has wanted to touch me.” I had to choke back tears as I continued to wipe his body dry. When I reached his midsection, I wasn’t sure what to do. It didn’t bother me to dry his cock and pubic hairs. I had been with so many men over the years, it was just another one to me. However, I wasn’t sure how he would feel. I ran the towel over his ass, and then carefully brought it around to the front. He didn’t say anything as I ran the towel over his cock and dried his pubic hairs. When he started to stiffen, I stopped and ran the towel down his legs. When I stood back up, his cock was erect. It jutted out about six inches from his body. Unlike his body, it was thick and fat. “That isn’t broken,” I laughed as I looked down at his erection. He grabbed the towel from my hands and wrapped it around his body. “What do you expect,” he replied embarrassedly. “Let me rub my hands over your body and see if you don’t get a hard-on.” “Maybe later,” I laughed. “Right now, we’d better get you to bed.” I followed him over to his bed, letting my eyes wander over his naked body. He had the green towel still wrapped tightly around him, and I could make out the outlines of his thin ass. Allen would be a very good-looking guy if he had some weight on him. I’m sure that a few years ago he was what some people would describe as drop-dead gorgeous. His brother Gene was extremely attractive, but I would bet that Allen, when he was our age, probably had any guy or girl he wanted. Even though his hair was short, you could still tell that it was blond. And his eyes- those blue eyes. Even though they were now sunken inside a fragile face, you could still see the intensity they possessed. I had met only a few people whose eyes spoke to you. Allen was one of those people. He didn’t have to say a word for someone to know what he was feeling. His blue eyes said it all. “Uh, Joey.” I looked up and saw Allen grinning. “Like what you see?” My face burned with embarrassment after realizing that my gaze had been transfixed on his ass. “It’s alright,” I kidded. “I’ve seen better.” “I’m sure you have,” he responded playfully. As if to tease me further, he dropped the towel, walked over to the dresser and removed a clean pair of boxers. He looked over and seductively put them on, slowly edging them upward until they covered his nakedness. He then walked over to the sofa and sat down. I walked over and sat down beside him. “I thought you were tired?” “I am, but I don’t feel like sleeping,” he replied. “I do too much of that now.” I looked over at him and our eyes met. I tried to read what he was feeling, but this time his eyes didn’t give him away. “Are you going back to school tomorrow?” “I don’t have much of a choice,” I laughed. “If I don’t, Star will drag me there.” “I guess you know her pretty well,” he responded. There was a moment of silence. “Why did you quit? Star says you’re really smart.” “Too much shit,” I replied. “That didn’t answer my question.” He looked over and stared at me. I knew he wanted me to give him a better reason. I let out a sigh. “You have a year?” “How about the condensed version?” I then spent the next twenty minutes telling him my life’s history. Normally, I would never have told someone I hardly knew the details of my life, but I felt comfortable telling Allen. I told him things that I had never said to anyone else, not even Ticker. Tears appeared when I told him about my relationship with Uncle Mike. I had never told anyone that I had loved him. He made me feel special, and I loved him for that. Even though I knew what we had done was wrong, I still loved the close contact I had with him. Talking to Allen, I realized for the first time in five years, that was something I really missed- and needed. One thing I kept back was my hustling for money. For some reason, the thought of telling him something like that would make me look cheap. I wanted Allen to like me, and I wasn’t sure he would if he found out I sucked cock for money. We sat in awkward silence for several minutes after I finished. I was glad, because I had become emotional talking about my past. I was on the verge of breaking down, and I needed the silence to restore myself. I got up and went into the bathroom. I took a wash cloth and wiped my face off. I didn’t realize that I had cried so much. Not a sobbing cry, but one of those where tears flow down your face, and you don’t even realize they are there. When I returned, Allen was coming from the kitchen with two beers. He handed me one and then sat down beside me, this time our bodies were slightly touching. I looked over and met his eyes. “Now you.” His looked down, and he sat motionless for several minutes. Finally, he lifted his beer to his mouth and took a sip. “You know I’m sick?” He looked over with a sad expression on his face. I nodded my head without speaking. Again, he sat quietly for a couple more minutes. “I wasn’t always like this,” he finally said. “When I was your age, I thought I had the world by the balls. I had it all- friends, money, good looks and a lot of sex. I didn’t think there was anything I couldn’t do.” “I partied a lot.” He looked over and grimaced. “I mean a lot. Alcohol, weed, cocaine, sex, more sex,” He stopped and laughed. “And then there was always more sex. Anything you wanted. I fucked, and was fucked, by anyone and everyone. It really didn’t matter, as long as the sex was good.” He got quiet and didn’t say anything for several minutes. I figured he had told me all he was going to. “Then one day I got a cold, and it wouldn’t go away. I ran a fever for about a month. I just thought it was one of those nagging head colds you get. You know the ones, they last forever. And this one did. “My mother finally convinced me to go to the doctor. March 11. I’ll never forget the date. March 11. He had run some blood tests on me earlier in the week, and he called me back and said he wanted to go over the results. “You are HIV positive, he said.” I looked over and saw tears flowing down his face like they flowed down my face earlier. He wasn’t sobbing. The tears just fell quietly. “I was twenty.” He buried his head in his hands and cried softly. I put my hand on his back and rubbed him gently. He looked up and said sadly, “I was twenty, Joey. Twenty, and my life was already over.” I pulled him into my chest as he continued to cry. After about five minutes, he stopped crying and sat back up. “I lost everything. No one wanted to associate with me anymore. They treated me like I was some kind of leper.” He looked over and stared at me. “You know what hurt the most?” I shook my head. “My family turned against me. My stepfather didn’t want me around. He thought I was going to infect my little brother.” “Gene?” “Yeah, you know him?” I nodded my head. “It’s a long story. We’ll talk about it later.” “Fine with me,” he said angrily. “Hateful piece of shit.” “What about your mother?” “She’s cool,” he stated. “She comes to see me occasionally. She pays for this place. My stepfather has no idea. He’d probably divorce her if he found out.” “Star told me you have AIDS.” I knew the difference between being HIV positive and AIDS. “Not yet,” he replied. “You seem to be pretty sick, though.” I let my eyes wander down his thin body. “It comes and goes,” he replied. “The doctor says I’m brittle as a bird.” “I guess we all are in some way,” I said thoughtfully. We sat for a few minutes without saying anything. I was trying to wrap my head around what he had just told me. It was hard to imagine the guy sitting next to me, resting his arm against mine, could die from such a disease. “Why don’t you take your medication?” I remembered Star telling me he refused to take his pills. “What’s the use?” he responded sadly. “It’s going to kill me someday, anyway.” I wanted to jump up and start screaming at the top of my lungs. “You dumb shit! AIDS doesn’t have to be fatal! They haven’t cured it, but they have medication that can control it.” But I didn’t. I needed to inform myself of the disease first. I was sure Allen could find a reason to counter any argument I made. I looked over at him. I didn’t want him to die. I had just met him, and I didn’t want to lose his friendship before it even had a chance to develop. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?” I looked over and gave him a puzzled look. “Do what?” “Try to save my life like Star has been trying to do for the past three years.” I looked over and tears welled up in my eyes. “If I have to, yes.” “Well, don’t.” He didn’t say it angrily. It was as if he had made up his own mind, and anything anyone said wasn’t going to change it. “I’m tired.” He got up, walked over to the bed and crawled into it. I turned off the light and lay back on the couch. A few minutes later, I heard him snoring lightly. I lay awake the rest of the night. His story had affected me greatly. If there was a way, I was going to try and keep Allen alive. When I awoke in the morning, Allen was still sound asleep in his bed. I got up and stretched. My back was killing me. The springs to the couch were worn, and my body had sunk into an unusual position. Sleeping on a blanket at the lake was more comfortable. I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I had to wait several minutes until the hot water made its way to the tap. The hot water heater must have been located in the basement of the building. When the hot water emerged, I removed my clothes and took a long shower. It had been several weeks since I had cleaned myself other than swimming in Sullivan Lake. I had forgotten how relaxing hot water falling over my body felt. Afraid that I would use all the hot water before Allen had a chance to take a shower, I turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. As I was drying off, Allen opened the door and peered in. His eyes immediately wandered down my naked body before I had a chance to wrap the towel around me. His face reddened as he stared at me. “Like what you see?” I asked, remembering what he’d said the night before. “Yes,” he stammered. “Actually, quite nice.” It was my turn to blush. Being naked in front of someone didn’t bother me. In fact, I was proud of my body. I’m not athletic, but all the walking and swimming I do keeps me fit. I am also blessed with a rather large cock. I’m not huge, but I’m larger than most guys I know. I measured it once when I was fourteen. It was over seven inches then, so I’m guessing it is probably about an inch larger now. Usually when I have sex with someone, I try to please them. The few times I’ve let guys do me, they were genuinely pleased when I unzipped my pants and snaked my cock out. “What do you want for breakfast?” Allen asked as he continued to look at my body. “What are my options?” I was trying to wrap the towel tighter around my body. “Toast or muffin?” I looked in his face and he appeared to be happy, not the sullen figure from the night before. I guess when he said his health comes and goes, today might be a good day. “Muffin,” I responded. “You make any coffee?” I loved drinking coffee in the morning. It always seemed to perk me up. “Damn,” he smiled. “What am I now, your bitch?” “You wish,” I replied playfully. To taunt him, I grabbed my cock and pressed on it through the towel. His eyes widened when I did it. “Being your bitch may not be too bad.” He closed the door, and I dried myself off. I thought about the exchange we’d had. By the way he looked at me, it was obvious he was interested in me. I knew I liked Allen. I had since the first time I saw him on the bridge. However, I didn’t know if I was sexually attracted to him. I guess, since Uncle Mike, I had refused to let myself be drawn emotionally to someone. I felt that Allen may be breaking down those barriers. There was also something else. He was HIV positive. It’s rather unusual, but after all the anonymous men I’d had sex with over the years, I never thought about being infected with a sexually transmitted disease. I guess it’s like the girl who thinks that if her boyfriend pulls out before he cums, then she won’t get pregnant. I just felt that as long as I didn’t let a guy fuck me, I was safe. I started to put on my old clothes, but they smelled too badly. Star said she was bringing me some of her brother’s clothes, so I didn’t see any sense in getting dressed. I walked out of the bathroom with the towel still wrapped around me. Allen was sitting at the table sipping a cup of coffee. “Do you always come to the table naked?” He once again ran his eyes over my body. “I’m not naked,” I teased. “But if you’d like me to be.” He began to blush as he looked at his cup of coffee. I stood up and started to unwrap the towel from around me. Allen suddenly jumped up from the table. “Stop teasing me!” he shouted angrily. Even though his words were harsh, his eyes displayed a look of hurt. He went in the bathroom and slammed the door. A few minutes later, I could hear the shower running. I felt terrible because I had upset him. He had been the one to instigate the playfulness. I couldn’t understand why he suddenly became angry when I decided to play back. I had no intention of hurting him, but obviously I had. I heard a key turn in the door, and then Star came walking in. She smiled when she saw me sitting at the table. “You stayed the night. How did things go?” “All right,” I replied sadly. “Uh, uh.” She poured a cup of coffee and then she sat down across from me. “What happened?” “I’m not sure,” I replied. “Everything was going well, and then he became upset.” “He does that,” responded Star. “I’ll talk to him later. I’m sure you did nothing wrong.” “I hope not,” I said sadly. “Allen’s a pretty nice guy. I’d hate to do something that would make him mad at me.” Star sat back and studied me. I began to feel uncomfortable. “What?” “Nothing,” she smiled. “Nothing at all.” I hated her doing that. It’s like when someone has a secret, and they won’t tell you what it is. I wanted to stick my tongue out at her, but I realized how childish it would be. Allen came out of the bathroom naked. He was drying his hair, and he didn’t know that Star had come into the apartment. She casually looked over, unaffected by his nakedness. She then looked over and caught me wandering my eyes over his body. When I looked up, she was smiling again. “What?” “Nothing,” she replied. “Nothing at all.” She giggled when I did stick my tongue out at her. Allen quickly dressed, and then he returned to the kitchen. I stood and gave him my seat. He sat down without saying a word. “We’d better get to school,” I said. I wasn’t in a hurry to get to school, but I suddenly felt uncomfortable around Allen. I had experienced mood swings for years, but it was different seeing someone else do it. I also didn’t know how he felt about me. For some reason, he suddenly seemed to resent me being in the apartment. “You can’t go naked,” giggled Star. I looked down at Allen, expecting him to say something snide, but he acted as if he didn’t even hear her. She handed me a bag filled with clothing. “I’m sure you’ll find something that will fit you.” I went into the bathroom and opened the bag. The clothes were clean, and it appeared they had never been worn. I became angry when I retrieved a receipt from the bottom of the bag. It was dated the day before, and it was for $88.72. Star had gone out and bought me new clothes after she left last night. “I wish you hadn’t done this,” I said as I walked out of the bathroom in new jeans and shirt. “Do what?” she asked innocently. Her face reddened when I held up the sales receipt. “Another Star moment,” Allen said sarcastically. He was sitting at the table drinking coffee. I looked over and tried to get some reaction from him, but he seemed to be ignoring me. “Come on.” Star grabbed my hand and led me to the door. “We’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.” “Whoopee!” I shrieked. “I can’t wait.” Star slapped me on the shoulder as she went over and kissed Allen on his cheek. “Bye,” I said. He looked up and nodded, and then he turned his head and took a sip from his coffee cup. Star gave us a puzzled look. I know she couldn’t figure out what was going on. To be honest, neither could I. Since the weather was nice out, we decided to walk the mile and a half to school. It meant that we might be late, but I didn’t care. I really didn’t want to return anyway. I just didn’t know how to politely tell Star. “How bad is it?” I asked after we were about half way to school. “How bad is what?” “The gossip.” “Oh.” I knew by the tone of her voice it wouldn’t be good. Since I hadn’t really planned to return to school, I hadn’t considered how I would react to the stares and comments. Star reached down, grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I knew she was trying to allay my worries, but it was useless. “I can’t do this.” I pulled her hand away and turned to leave. “Don’t Joey,” she pleaded. Tears started to appear in her eyes. “Don’t do this to yourself. You’re too smart to just throw your life away. If you give up now, then they win.” “I don’t care anymore,” I insisted. “Yes, you do,” she said emphatically. “If you didn’t care, you would have left years ago. But you stuck with it. You’ve got the best grades of anyone in our class. That to me doesn’t sound like a guy who wants to quit and throw it all away.” “You don’t understand.” Tears started to appear in my eyes. I knew what she said was true. Even when I tried to drown myself, my last thoughts were that I would never be able to achieve something; even if it was to prove my own man wrong. “I don’t understand.” She reached out and took my hand again. “I doubt I ever will. But one thing I know is, you can’t quit. You’ll never forgive yourself if you do.” I went over to the curb and sat down, putting my head in my hands. Star sat down, pressing her body close to mine. “I haven’t given up on Allen,” she cried, “and I’ll be damn if I give up on you.” “What did I ever do to deserve a friend like you?” I pulled her into my chest and cried softly. I was overwhelmed by the concern she had for me. I wasn’t used to letting people into my life, but somehow Star had been able to carve out a little section of my heart. After a few minutes, she pulled away. She looked into my tear-stained face and smile gently. Then she put her finger to my face and wiped my tears away. It only made me cry even more. It reminded me of how my mother used to wipe my tears away when I was a little boy. After a few minutes, we got up and continued our way to school. I stopped and hesitated before entering the building. My heart was beating rapidly. Walking back in would probably be one of the hardest things I would ever have to do. It meant I had to face all my problems again. It would have been easier to just turn and walk away, and I probably would have if Star hadn’t been at my side. I reached down, took her hand and squeezed it. After taking a deep breath, I began the approach back to my life.
  4. Chapter 7

    Thank you, BlindAmbition, and I wish you continued good health. I had many friends who died of AIDS in the 80's and 90's before drugs were discovered. Sadly, one result has been that less focus is now placed on HIV infection. Many of us grew up with the realization that we could get infected from unprotected sex. Young people today, I think, aren't aware of the seriousness of the disease, or maintain the attitude that it won't happen to them. I hope you will join me to continue to educate others as this story progresses. That is why I wrote it.
  5. Chapter 7

    You are correct, droughtquake. According to the Center for Disease Control: In 2015, youth aged 13 to 24a accounted for 22% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Most of those new diagnoses among youth (81%) occurred among gay and bisexual males. If you have been sexually active and engaged in unprotected sex, get tested today. AIDS is a silent killer.
  6. Chapter 7

    “Thanks.” Allen sat up and looked at me with tear-stained eyes. “I’m glad you came by today. I was seriously thinking about doing it.” He rested his head on my shoulder and let out a sigh. A car slowed down and someone lowered the backseat passenger window. Suddenly, we were splattered with a soda. “Fags!” Someone shouted out the window as the car sped away. “Story of my life,” Allen remarked sadly as he began wiping the drink from his shirt. “You said it,” I responded as I brushed off my shirt. “At least it wasn’t shit.” Allen looked at me, and then a slight grin appeared on his face. “Yeah, at least it wasn’t shit.” He stood and stared into my face. “I have to go.” He turned and started walking along the side of the bridge. I ran to catch up with him. “You have a habit of just walking away, don’t you?” “It’s easier that way,” he responded without slowing his pace. I stopped and watched as he continued to walk. After a few feet he began to slow down, and then I watched as he collapsed to the ground. “Are you all right?” I knelt beside him. He was gasping for air, and his color had paled considerably. “Yeah,” he gasped. “Leave me alone. I’ll be okay in a couple of minutes.” “No.” I sat down beside him. “I’m not going anywhere.” He continued to gasp. I felt helpless beside him. I didn’t know if there was anything I could do for him. “You want me to call 9-1-1?” “I said give me a minute,” he replied impatiently as he reached into his pocket, took out a small pill and swallowed it. After a few minutes, he began to breathe more regularly. He started to get up, but he fell back into me. “Help me up,” he said. I got to my feet and tried to pull him up by his hand, but he was too weak. I reached down, took him by his thin waist and raised him to his feet. He rested his body against mine and tried to catch his breath. I could feel his ribs through his shirt. It felt like he hadn’t eaten in days. “Where do you live?” I asked. “I’ll help you home.” I thought he’d resist, but he motioned for us to cross the bridge. I had to hold him up as we made our way to his place. We walked about six blocks, passing the coffee shop. He led me to a storefront building and motioned that he lived above it. I had to carry him up the stairs to his apartment. I reached into his pocket, took out his key and opened the door. He directed me to a double bed in the corner of the small room. He collapsed onto it and gasped for air. I walked over to the sink and got him a glass of water. By the time I returned, he was asleep. I sat down beside him for a minute and watched his chest rising and falling. His breathing was extremely labored, and I was afraid he was going to die. I removed his shoes, and then I pulled a thin blanket over his body. He looked briefly at me and smiled slightly before closing his eyes. After a few minutes, his breathing became more regular. I got up and looked around the room. It appeared to be a one room apartment, and it was sparsely furnished. Besides the bed he was on, there was a small couch against the opposite wall. There was a small kitchenette with a table and two chairs. A television was sitting on a dresser against the other wall. The room was clean, despite the soiled carpet and stained walls. I couldn’t imagine how someone could live like this, but then I thought that it was better than what I had. I walked over to a door and opened it. Inside was the bathroom with a small closet which contained a few jeans and shirts. Again, it appeared clean even with the shabby conditions of the walls. I walked back over to the bed to make sure that Allen was all right. His breathing was shallow, like someone in a deep sleep. He appeared exhausted. His gaunt face was pale and colorless. It was obvious that he was extremely sick. I stood and then again looked around the room. I didn’t know if I should stay to make sure that he would be safe, or if I should leave. I began to wonder if he would be upset when he awoke and found me in his apartment. However, I was too tired to make the journey back to Sullivan Lake. Even though Allen was thin, it still exhausted me to carry him back to his apartment. I looked over at the beige couch, and then decided I would rest a little while before leaving. There was another blanket hanging over the back. I lay down, pulled it over me and fell asleep. I was awakened later when I heard Allen crying out in his sleep. He was thrashing around and mumbling softly. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he seemed extremely disturbed. I walked over and sat down beside him. His eyes flew open, and he had a wild expression on his face. He curled himself into a ball and started crying. “It’s Joey,” I whispered as I took his body and pulled him over to me. He threw his arms around me and continued to cry. After a minute, he settled down and fell back to sleep. I pulled the blanket aside, climbed in beside him and pulled him into my body. He held my arm tightly as his body relaxed into mine. Soon, we were both asleep. The room was dark when I awoke. I was at first disoriented, but soon realized where I was. I quietly got out of bed without awaking Allen and made my way to the bathroom. It had been hours since I had last relieved myself. When I returned, Allen was sitting up. His legs were hanging over the side of the bed, and he seemed confused. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “I helped you home,” I responded. “Don’t you remember?” He stared thoughtfully at me a moment before responding. “Yeah, I remember.” He rose and made his way to the bathroom. He closed the door, and I could hear him pissing. It appeared his bladder was as full as mine. After a minute, he reappeared and walked over to the couch and sat down beside me. “Thanks,” he said. “No problem,” I replied He looked over at me and smiled slightly. He got up and turned on the television. He returned to the sofa and sat down beside me. We were sitting quietly when I heard a key turning in the door. It opened, and Star walked in. She stopped suddenly when she saw me sitting beside Allen. “What are you doing here, Joey?” I don’t think I had ever seen anyone so surprised before. She stood looking back and forth between me and Allen. “He helped me home,” Allen responded softly. It was obvious he was still weak from the afternoon ordeal. “Are you all right?” She walked over, knelt in front of him and felt his forehead. “You’re burning up.” I looked over and for the first time I could see that he was perspiring profusely. In the dim room, I hadn’t noticed it before. She went into the bathroom and returned with a towel. She wiped his face, head and neck. “You can do the rest,” she said as she handed him the towel. “Did he take his temperature?” She looked at me. “I don’t think so,” I responded. From the way he was perspiring, he must have been running a high fever. She went back into the bathroom and returned with a thermometer. She put it in Allen’s mouth, and then again felt his forehead. “Is he all right?” I was becoming concerned by the worried look on Star’s face. “He was in the hospital with pneumonia,” she informed me. “They gave him some medication. He must not be taking it.” She knelt and gave Allen a motherly look. He hung his head. “He never takes his medication,” she added. She removed the thermometer from his mouth. “102 degrees.” “That’s pretty high,” I said. “Yes it is,” she remarked worriedly. “Joey, go in the bathroom and see if you can find a bottle of Mepron.” I went into the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. There must have been eight or nine bottles of pills. I had never heard of any of them. I read the labels: Crixivan, Norvir and Invirase. Finally, I found the bottle labeled Mepron. I returned and handed the bottle to Star. She poured a dose into the cap and handed it to Allen. He refused to take it at first, but he finally relented. “Help me get him to bed,” she said. We carefully lifted him to his feet and led him to the other side of the room. Before putting him in bed, Star began to undress him. I was amazed at how thin his body was. I could literally count his ribs. When she removed his pants, his legs were barely thicker than my arms. Once undressed, she placed him on the bed and covered him with the blanket. “Go get the one on the couch,” she pointed across the room. When I returned, she was sitting on the side of the bed and running her hand gently across his head. He had his eyes closed, and he appeared to have fallen asleep. “Is he going to be all right?” I asked worriedly. “He will if he’ll take his medication,” she whispered. “He refuses to take it.” I looked down at the frail figure lying on the bed. Tears welled up in my eyes. I walked over to the couch, sat down and idly looked at the television. A few minutes later, Star got up, came over and sat down beside me. She looked so tired. I reached over and took her hand and held it. We sat quietly for several minutes without speaking. Finally, I got up the courage to ask her what had been on my mind all afternoon. “Is he dying?” She looked over at me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know,” she replied softly. “He may be.” My heart sunk. I looked over at the bed. Allen’s thin body was hardly visible under the blankets. “What’s wrong with him?” I wasn’t sure I was prepared to hear the answer. “He has AIDS.” Star squeezed my hand tightly, and she started to cry. I sat numbly with her words echoing in my head, “He has AIDS.” How could someone so young be dying from such a disease? Suddenly, she started sobbing. I put my arm around her and held her as we both cried. I couldn’t understand why someone I hardly knew was having such an effect on me. We had only known each other for a short time, but I felt like I had known him all my life. Star got up, walked across the room and sat beside Allen. She put her hand to his forehead and then ran her hand along his body. He stirred slightly, but he didn’t wake up. She walked back over and sat down. “His temperature seems to have broken,” she informed me. “I wish he’d take his pills, but he refuses.” “Why?” I looked at her and saw a sad expression. “I don’t think he wants to live anymore.” Again, she burst into tears. I held her while she cried softly. I could understand what he was experiencing. I guess that is what had brought us together. When we first met, he wanted to die. And today, he had come to the bridge to end his life. He had even asked me what it was like to experience death. Depression swept over me, but this time I refused to run from it. Star needed me, and Allen needed me. This time I wouldn’t run. As if reading my mind, Star leaned into me and rested her head on my shoulder. I took her hand and squeezed it. We must have remained that way for about ten minutes before moving. Finally, she looked into my eyes. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you. Ticker said you haven’t been home in days.” “Home?” I laughed. “I don’t have a home.” “Where have you been?” “Around.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I’d been sleeping at the lake for the past few days. “Why haven’t you been in school?” “I quit.” She studied me for a minute before resting her head once again on my shoulder. I was waiting for a lecture, but she didn’t say anything. I guess she had enough problems worrying about Allen to get involved in mine too. “Are you hungry?” She got up and walked over to the small kitchen. I watched as she rummaged around inside a cupboard. Finally, she stood back and waved a box of Cheerios. “Ta da!” She walked over to the refrigerator and peered inside. She then turned to me and frowned. “No milk.” I took off my shoe to see how much money I had left. $43. “I’ll go get a pizza.” “You don’t have to do that,” she insisted. “There must be something around here to eat.” “What kind of pizza does Allen like?” I looked at his still sleeping body. “It doesn’t matter,” she said sadly. “He won’t eat anyway.” “Pepperoni?” “Yeah. That will do, I guess.” I left and walked out onto the street. I looked back to memorize which building Allen lived in. Underneath his apartment was a store named Schultz Dry Cleaning. I walked several blocks before I found a pizza place. The sign on the window announced it had the “Best Pizza in the South. Hand tossed.” I stood outside and watched as the young man busily prepared pizzas. It was entertaining to watch him toss the dough into the air as it formed a perfect crust. A couple of times he looked out the window and smiled at me. I ordered two large pepperonis and a giant bag of potato chips. I didn’t know about Star and Allen, but I was famished. I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. It cost over half of what I had, but I didn’t care. When I arrived back at Allen’s apartment, he was sitting beside Star on the couch. He didn’t look as pale as he had earlier, and it appeared his fever had broken. Star got up, walked into the kitchen area and took three plates from the cupboard. I placed a large slice on each plate and a handful of chips. I handed a plate to Star. She walked over and sat down at the small dinette table. I then walked over to Allen and handed him a plate. “I’m not hungry,” he insisted as he pushed the plate away. “Yes, you are,” I said defiantly, taking a seat beside him. I placed the plate in his lap and then began eating my pizza. “I just didn’t spend all this money on this pizza for you not to eat.” He looked angrily at me. He sat for several minutes holding the plate in his lap. He then tore off a small piece and gingerly ate it. Soon, he had eaten the entire slice. I walked over to the kitchen, placed two more pieces on my plate and returned. Without saying anything, I put another slice on his plate. As before, he sat several minutes, refusing to eat. But soon, he started picking at the pizza. Several minutes later, it was gone. He handed me the plate, indicating he didn’t want anything more. “You’re a miracle worker,” whispered Star when I walked back to the kitchen. “That’s the most I’ve seen him eat in weeks.” “I’m not a miracle worker,” I whispered back. “I’m just more stubborn.” “Too stubborn,” she replied worriedly. We cleaned up while Allen quietly watched television. Occasionally, I saw him looking at us out of the corner of his eyes. He appeared to be feeling much better than he had earlier. Eating something had definitely helped. When we were finished, Star grabbed my hand and led me to the door. “Let’s go for a walk.” She turned to Allen. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.” He nodded and then returned to watching his show. She held my hand as we walked down the sidewalk. She led me to Allen’s coffee shop. She motioned for me to go take a booth in the back while she stood in line. A minute later, she returned with two coffees. “I didn’t know how you like yours,” she said as she placed some sugar and cream in front of me. I took a packet of each and added it to my cup. She drank hers black. She sat and stared into my face for a minute before speaking. “Now tell me where you’ve been the past few days. You’ve had me and Ticker worried sick.” “I told you, around,” I replied defensively. I looked down into my cup. “That’s not an answer,” she said angrily. I looked up and saw her insistent stare. I sat for a minute before answering. Star was a good friend, and I knew she cared about me. It wasn’t fair to treat her so rudely. Besides, after watching the way she cared about Allen, I knew I could trust her. “I had to get away for a few days,” I finally said. “I’ve got a place I go when things get too rough.” Again, she studied me for a minute. “And school?” “I told you, I quit.” I watched as her worried face became red with anger. “Bullshit,” she replied. “You’re too smart to throw your life away like that.” “Don’t mother me,” I responded angrily. “You’ve got no idea what my fucking life is like.” “How can I know when you won’t let me in?” She stood and started walking out. I trailed behind her as she headed back to Allen’s apartment. Just as we arrived, I walked up and took her hand. “Please, Star,” I said apologetically. “I don’t want to hurt you. Everything I touch turns to shit.” Tears appeared in my eyes. I dropped her hand and turned to walk away. She put her hand on my arm and stopped me. “Don’t walk away, Joey.” Tears were now flowing down her face. She threw her arms around me and cried. I held her tightly as we both wept. “I don’t know what to do,” I cried. “I never know what to do.” “Then let me help you.” I nodded. It was then that I realized that I had to trust someone. My life had spiraled so far out of control that I knew that I couldn’t save it by myself. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live the life I had been living the past five years. After Uncle Mike, I had completely closed my myself from anyone and everything. I had to trust someone. I trusted Star. She held me tightly as we continued to cry outside Shultz Dry Cleaning. Several people stopped and asked if anything was wrong. Star grabbed my hand and led me back up to Allen’s apartment. He looked worriedly at us when we entered the small apartment with tear-stained faces. “She’s done it again,” he remarked. “Mother Star.” We started laughing. She reached in her bag, took out her cell phone and handed it to me. “What?” “I think you owe someone a call.” I took the phone, walked into the small bathroom and closed the door. I dialed the number and waited. “Where are you Mother Fucker?” Ticker shouted into the phone. “Nice to talk to you too,” I laughed. “I’m serious here, Joey!” he shouted. “I’m going to kick your sorry ass the next time I see you. Where are you?” “I’m okay,” I assured him. “I’m with Star.” “Put her on the phone,” he insisted. “I don’t want to talk to your fucking ass, you Asshole.” His words were filled with so much emotion that I could tell he was probably crying. I took the phone to Star and handed it to her. She disappeared into the bathroom as I took a seat beside Allen. He asked worriedly, “More shit?” “Yeah,” I replied. “But this time it is good shit.” It felt good to know that Ticker wasn’t mad at me. His angry words only reinforced how much he still cared for me. Star returned and handed me the phone. “But you love me,” I laughed as I closed the phone. A few seconds later the phone rang. I opened it. “Fucker,” laughed Ticker. “You know I do.” I was smiling as he hung up. I looked at the time on Star’s phone. It was after nine. “I have to go,” I announced. A worried look appeared on Star’s face. “Where are you going? You know you can always go back to Ticker’s house.” “I know,” I said. “Maybe I will, but not tonight.” I knew I couldn’t just show back up at Ticker’s house as if nothing had happened. I was pretty sure his mother was still upset with me. Besides, Ticker hadn’t asked me to return. “Where are you staying now?” I didn’t want to tell her that I was sleeping on the banks of a lake, layering my clothes so that I could stay warm. “It’s okay,” I replied. “Really.” “Why don’t you stay here with Allen tonight?” I looked at the stunned look on his face. “I can’t do that,” I replied as I opened the door. “Yes, you can,” Allen said weakly. “I’d like you to stay.” A relieved look came over Star’s face. She walked over, bent down and gave Allen a hug. I heard her say, “Thank you,” very softly. She walked back over and pulled me back into the room. “There, that’s settled.” She sounded like a mother hen. She opened her phone and looked at the time. “I do have to go, but you boys have fun.” She bent down and kissed Allen on the forehead. She then walked over and pulled me into a tight embrace. “And you, Mister,” she stepped back. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow.” “I don’t know, Star,” I replied hesitantly. “I’m not sure I want to go back.” “Nonsense,” she responded. “I need you to help me with English Literature. We had a test yesterday, and I failed it. It was on that Wadsworth guy.” I started laughing. “You mean Wordsworth?” “Wadsworth, Wordsworth, Whatever.” She got a stern look on her face. “I’ll be by at seven, and we’ll walk to school. Be ready.” “I don’t have any clean clothes.” I was trying desperately to find an excuse to not return to school. “I’ll bring some of Barry’s old clothes,” she replied quickly. “He has so many he won’t miss anything.” Allen started laughing from the couch. “It looks like you’re going back to school. I’ve known Star all her life. She’s not going to take no for an answer.” I let out a sigh. I knew when I was defeated. “Fine, I’ll be ready.” Star smiled, and then kissed me again on the cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she said as she left the apartment. I turned and noticed Allen staring at me. “Just because I’m spending the night, doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me.” He started chuckling. “You wish,” he laughed. I walked over and sat down beside him. “Thanks for letting me crash here tonight,” I said appreciatively. “No problem,” he replied. He leaned into my body and rested his head on my shoulder. Within a few minutes, he was asleep.
  7. Chapter 6

    “Hold up!” Star grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. I had run out of Allen’s room, and I was heading back to mine. “What is going on?” “Just forget it,” I insisted. I couldn’t explain my feelings. When I entered the room and saw the angry look on Allen’s face, I was filled with my own frustration. It seemed like we were two cars colliding on a dark, deserted highway. Since that day on the bridge, Allen’s sad countenance had been etched into my mind. I lay at night thinking about him, wondering if I would ever see him again. I had even visited the coffee shop a few times hoping to run into him. However, the look on his face, the anger and disgust, took me by surprise. So, I ran. “Joey,” begged Star. “Please stop and talk to me.” I had been trying to pull away from her so I could get back to my room. I stopped and faced her. She asked, “Do you two know each other?” I stared into her blue eyes, trying to figure out the emotions I was feeling. “We’ve met,” I confessed. “You know Allen?” “I said we’ve met.” I turned and started walking away. “Would you stop and talk to me!” she shouted. I looked around the hall to see if anyone had heard her outburst. A nurse’s aide looked out a nearby door, but then she disappeared. “Let’s go to my room,” I said as I turned and walked quietly down the hall. Once inside my room, I dropped into a chair and buried my head in my hands. Star apprehensively entered the room and took a seat next to me. She took my hand in hers and gently rubbed the back of it. “Would you like to explain to me what is going on?” I sat a minute, and then I let out a deep sigh. I looked at the anxious look on her face. I then proceeded to tell her about my brief encounter with Allen. She seemed upset when I told her that he wanted to commit suicide. When I was done, she got up and entered the bathroom. I could hear here crying softly inside. After several minutes, she returned. Her face was tear-stained, and she looked extremely upset. “I knew he was depressed,” she said, “but I had no idea he wanted to die.” “What’s wrong with him?” I had been wondering about his health since we met. For someone so young, he looked like he was at death’s door. “I can’t say,” she replied tearfully. She began to cry uncontrollably. I reached over and pulled her into my shoulder as she continued to sob. “Is he your boyfriend?” I asked when she finally regained her composure. “No,” she laughed nervously. “It’s nothing like that.” “Then what is it?” “Allen was my next door neighbor,” she responded. “I’ve known him almost my entire life. The past few years have been very hard for him.” “I gathered that much,” I said. “What’s his problem?” “He’s very sick,” she said. “But I don’t want to go into that. He also has a problem with his family.” “Who doesn’t,” I laughed. “You know Gene Albright, right?” “Yes,” I spat. My face began to flush with anger. “He’s Allen’s brother.” “But they don’t have the same last name,” I said. “They have different fathers,” she informed me. “Allen is from the first marriage.” “If Gene is his brother, then no wonder Allen is so fucked up.” I added nervously, “I'm still afraid he's going to try and get back at me for getting him suspended.” “That sounds like Gene,” she replied angrily. “Allen left his house because he was so hateful and homophobic.” A surprised look appeared on her face after she realized what she had said. I asked, “So Allen is gay?” “That’s not for me to say,” she replied embarrassedly. “Just what can you say?” I laughed, trying to ease some of the tension in the room. “You never did give me a reason why you ran from the room.” She stared intently into my face. “I can’t really explain it,” I confessed. “It just took me by surprise, I guess. Seeing him in that bed, and then the look he gave me.” “It was rather strange,” she replied. “Allen has his problems, but he’s really not so bad a guy once you get past his thick exterior. From what you told me, it sounds like you guys kind of bonded.” “Daring me to jump off a bridge isn’t exactly bonding,” I laughed. “Besides, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Star looked at me worriedly. “Sorry,” I apologized. “I guess you don’t think that’s very funny.” Just then, the door opened and Ticker came bounding in with a grin on his face. “You ready to go, Bitch?” He stopped suddenly when he noticed Star. “Oops.” His face began to redden. “I didn’t know you had company.” “Star,” I said. “This fat head is my friend, Ticker. Ticker, Star.” “I’ve seen you someplace,” Ticker stood staring down at Star. “I never forget a pretty face.” “Better be careful,” I laughed looking over at Star. “He’s turning on the charm.” She started to blush. “I’m a friend of Billy Joe’s,” she informed Ticker. “That’s where I know you from,” he replied. “Aren’t you also Barry’s sister?” “Yes,” she answered. “He’s an asshole,” spat Ticker. “Yes, he is,” laughed Star. Ticker turned and looked at me. “Are you ready to get out of here? Dad’s signing the papers now.” “I’ve never been more ready,” I admitted. “This place sucks big time.” “Then let’s go,” Ticker said as he threw his big arm over my shoulder. “I have a ton of homework.” “Fucker,” I laughed as I removed his arm from my shoulder. “Give me a minute alone with Star, will you?” Ticker raised an eyebrow as he looked back and forth between us. I was going to tell him it wasn’t like that, but I thought would keep him wondering for a while. After he left, I asked Star if she was going to go back to Allen’s room. She said she was going to spend a few hours with him. “Tell him I’m sorry for leaving so suddenly.” “I will.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed me gently on my cheek. “Maybe you can come with me and visit him sometime.” “I don’t think so,” I laughed nervously. “Somehow I’m not sure he’d like that.” “You’d be surprised,” she said knowingly. She turned and left the room. ******** On the way to Ticker’s house, he kept questioning me about Star. He was very careful not to mention that I was gay in front of his father. I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched him choosing his words carefully. I know he was dying to ask something like, “What is a gay guy like you doing with a cute girl like Star?” Ticker’s family is- interesting. I guess you could say they are a dysfunctional family, but in a good sort of way. Ticker’s dad is a quiet man. He doesn’t say a lot, and he seems happy if everyone just leaves him alone. As soon as we entered the house, he went to a lazy boy chair, sat back and began reading the newspaper. I don’t think he came from behind the paper for over an hour. His mother, on the other hand, is just the opposite. She wants to know everything. She immediately sat me down at the kitchen table and began interrogating me. I jokingly asked her at one point if she was a police detective. She replied, “I’m just a mother with four children. I have to know what they are doing.” I looked over at Ticker and gave him a knowing grin. If she was so interested in their activities, then how was he able to sell weed without her becoming suspicious? He later told me that she’s very naïve. If she ever found his stash, she would be the kind of person who would believe it was oregano, if he told her that was what it was. Ticker is one of four children. He has two brothers, one younger and one older. Jeremy is nineteen and still lives at home. He works at Radio Shack, so he’s hardly at home. Ticker said he comes in late and leaves early. Arthur is his younger brother. He’s thirteen and still in middle school. He’s somewhat of a computer geek. Ticker said he’s always in his room dreaming up new programs. He says Arthur wants to be the next Bill Gates. Greta is his older sister. She is a junior at the state university, majoring in criminal justice. She wants to become a probation officer. “Maybe she’ll handle your case someday,” Ticker said with a grin. “Naw,” I laughed. “Arthur can hire me a good lawyer since he’s going to be a billionaire.” Another striking thing about the Wendelmeir family is the fact that they are all skinny- except Ticker. You could almost take his two brothers and fit them into one pair of Ticker’s pants. Eating dinner with them was an interesting experience. Ticker piled his plate with food, fit for an army. His mother and father hardly ate anything, and Arthur played with his food most of the time. Ticker ate like it was his last meal, while the rest of his family seemed like they had just finished a big meal and couldn’t eat anything more. “Let’s go for a walk,” Ticker suggested after we had finished eating. Without his mother noticing, he blew out a couple of puffs of air. I knew what he had in mind. We walked to a playground about two blocks from his house. Since no one was around, we sat on the swings and Ticker lit a joint. We passed it back and forth without saying anything for several minutes. “When we get back,” Ticker looked at me and grinned, “I have some geometry that needs to be done.” “Damn it, Ticker,” I responded angrily. “I’m not going to be doing your homework every day.” When he noticed how upset I was becoming, he apologized. “Please, Joey. I’m really struggling in that class. You’re smart. You can help me.” “I’ll be glad to help you,” I said, “but I won’t do it for you. You’ll never learn anything that way.” “You sound like my dad,” he laughed. “I can’t talk him into doing it, either.” Suddenly, I became depressed. It had been a week since I had been in school. I had missed a lot of work, and it was quite possible that my grades had suffered as a result. I really wasn’t worried about that as much as the reaction to my appearance back in school the next day. I guess the media had covered my suicide attempt for a couple of days. The cop who rescued me had become a hometown hero. He had been interviewed several times on television. At the same time, the local paper had somehow acquired an old photo of me when I was in about the seventh grade. Everyone now knew my story. “It won’t be so bad,” Ticker said as if he had read my mind. “Yeah, sure,” I responded sadly. “Easy for you to say.” He passed me another joint. “Smoke it all,” he insisted. He lit another for himself. “I don’t know what to do, Ticker.” I looked over at him sadly. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, but I didn’t care. “It seems like I’m always taking one step forward and three steps back.” The weed was hitting me, and I was becoming extremely emotional. “Damn it, Joey!” shouted Ticker. “Don’t you ever have a happy thought? I’ve known you for over ten years, and you’re always a sad sack.” “Fuck it!” I spat. I rose and started walking away. Ticker ran up and grabbed me. He turned me toward him, and then he pulled me into his large chest. I started crying uncontrollably. “I’m so tired of living like this,” I sobbed. “It will be alright, Joey,” he said reassuringly. I couldn’t believe it when he kissed me on my forehead, like my mother used to do when I was a little boy and was scared. “You fag!” I laughed as I pushed him away. His gesture had been so tender and filled with brotherly love, that I didn’t know how to respond. Even though we had been like brothers, we had never outwardly expressed our feeling for each other before. “Shut up, Fucker,” he responded nervously. I laughed even louder when I saw how embarrassed he was. I guess he hadn’t really considered what he had done. “Thanks.” I stepped toward him and gave him a hug. He tentatively put his arms around me and squeezed back. We separated and headed back home without saying anything more about what had happened at the playground. ******** My worries about school were not unfounded. When I entered the school Monday morning, everyone stopped and watched me walk down the hallway. It was as if Moses was parting the Red Sea. People stepped out of my way as I approached. Then the verbal assaults began. “Fag, pathetic, loser, fucker.” Every derogatory word they could think of was hurled at me. They stood in their little groups and berated me like I was something inhuman. A couple of students looked at me sympathetically before casting their eyes downward and scurrying away. I stared forward, acting as if I couldn’t hear anything they said. It really wasn’t all that difficult anyways. I’d been the target of their abuse for many years. Only this morning it was a little more explicit. “Should have died,” one girl said angrily as I passed by. “I don’t know why they let him come back to school,” another student snarled. “We don’t need his kind around here.” I continued walking, ignoring their hateful comments. The PA system blared with the announcement, “Would Joey Carpenter please report to Mr. Walters’s office.” I turned around and headed for the office, passing the same students who had just hurled their insults at me. I walked into the office and plopped down in a chair in the waiting area. I figured it would be a few minutes until Mr. Walters could see me. I really wasn’t in any hurry to go into this office, anyways. I knew he was going to question me about what had happened. About ten minutes later, he stepped from his office and motioned for me to enter. The secretary gave me a look like I was some freak in the sideshow. I sat down in a chair across from Mr. Walters’s desk and waited patiently while he thumbed through some papers on his desk. Finally, he finished and looked at me. He studied me a few seconds before speaking. “How are you feeling?” “Okay,” I responded flatly. This was bullshit. He was going to dance around the issue. I knew he had a ton of questions, but he wasn’t sure how to approach “it.” After the reaction of my classmates earlier, I wasn’t in the mood. Without thinking, I stood and said, “Sorry, Mr. Walters, but I quit.” I walked out of his office, hurried down the hallway and exited the building. It didn’t matter any longer. Who was I fooling to think that if I went to school every day and studied hard, I could climb my way out of the shithole I was in. Isn’t that what teachers tell you? ‘If you just study hard, you can be anything you want to be.’ Bunch of fucking liars. Just because they did it, doesn't mean everyone can. “Hey, Kid. Looking for some action?” “Sure, why not.” I climbed into the car with four guys, all about twenty. They took me back to their apartment, and we spent the day drinking, smoking and having sex. They wanted to fuck me, but I told them I had had a bad case of diarrhea the day before and it might not be a wise idea. I did manage to suck all of them off, one guy three times. They fucked each other, and I fucked two of them. It was the first time I had ever performed anal sex on someone. I guess you could say I lost my virginity that afternoon. We must have gone through about three bottles of whiskey and smoked a huge bag of weed during the five-hour orgy. I was extremely fucked up by the time I left the apartment. Somehow, I managed to stagger back to Ticker’s house. His mother was in the kitchen preparing dinner. She started to say something to me, but then a look of horror appeared on her face when she noticed the drunken state I was in. She stood aghast as I stumbled past her and headed to Ticker’s room and collapsed on the cot he had put in his room for me. I woke up sick about one in the morning. I could feel my stomach bubbling as I rushed to the bathroom and vomited violently. I was still spitting into the bowl when Ticker opened the door and entered. “You all right?” “Yeah,” I replied sarcastically. “Everything is fantastic.” “Joey,” he said worriedly, “You got to pull yourself together. You’re killing yourself.” I rose and stood before him. “What the fuck do you care, Ticker? You ain’t my mother!” “Joey, please.” “Please what?” I spat. “You gonna hug me again?” Tears started streaming down my face as I looked into his hurt face. “Goddamn it!” I shouted, and then I rushed from the bathroom. I ran down the hall, opened the front door and once again ran away. I had run away from school earlier in the day, and now I was running from the only person who even remotely cared about me. Life fucking sucks. So where do I end up? Where I always do- Sullivan Lake. As soon as I got here, I stripped naked and jumped into the cold water. I swam across the lake twice before I pulled myself onto the beach, exhausted and gasping for air. “Why?” I rolled onto my back and looked up at the stars. “Why, me?” Fucking tears. ******** I spent the next few days just wandering aimlessly around the city. I made enough money turning tricks to buy myself something to eat. However, my clothes were beginning to get soiled. I was able to keep myself clean by swimming in the lake, but my clothes wrinkled terribly when I tried to wash them out. Thrift stores are a great place to buy things inexpensively. I was able to buy a few clean shirts, pants and underwear for less than ten dollars. For another dollar, I bought a school backpack to keep them in. As long as the weather didn’t turn too cold, I was sure I could survive. On the street, you lose track of time and days. I didn’t know how long it had been since I left Ticker’s home. I thought several times of calling him, but then I figured he’d just try to talk me into coming back. Ticker was a good guy, and I didn’t want to ruin his life like I had mine. It seemed like everything I touched turned to a pile of shit. At least by staying away, I could prevent him from catching the Joey the Hoey curse. I cared that much about him to at least do that. After several more endless days and nameless sexual encounters, I was heading back to Sullivan Lake to find solace. As I started to cross the bridge, I noticed a familiar thin figure propped against the wall with his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. He had his head resting on top of his knees. When I approached cautiously, he looked up briefly. I walked over and slumped against the wall beside him. Without saying a word, I pulled my knees into my body and rested my head on them. We sat for about ten minutes without saying a word. He finally asked, “What was it like?” I took a minute before answering him. “I wasn’t scared,” I finally replied. “I just did it.” He looked over at me. “Yeah?” “Yeah.” “What happened?” he asked. “You didn’t die.” “I don’t know.” I looked at him and our eyes met. “Suddenly, I didn’t want to die. I don’t know. All of a sudden it seemed so... permanent. You know?” “Permanent?” “Yeah,” I replied. “I hate my life, but when it came time to ending it, it was like I wasn’t ready. I can’t really explain it.” “I know,” he sighed, as he rested his head back on his knees. “Permanent is a bitch.” “Yeah. A real bitch.” We sat for several minutes without speaking again. I looked over a couple of times, and he was completely motionless. Then his shoulders began to shake, and soon he was sobbing loudly. I scooted over closer to him, put my arm around his neck and pulled him into me. His head fell into my lap, and I stroked his hair as we both wept. We were two lonely figures huddled together on a deserted bridge.
  8. Chapter 5

    God. The water is warm. My wet clothes are pulling me down. My body wants to struggle, but I can’t raise my arms. I close my eyes, and I’m drifting. I am so warm. I can’t explain the feeling of complete euphoria. It is like I had been preparing myself for this all my life. It’s funny how we will lie at night and think of how we will die. Will it be from natural causes at 101? Will it be cancer at 67? Will it be an automobile accident at 38 or a heart attack at 50? Perhaps, it will be something really weird. I read in the newspaper about a farmer who died at 62 from a farming accident. His coat sleeve got caught in the fan belt of a tractor and caused him to die of strangulation. Then there was the jogger who was exercising in the morning and was hit by a driver. She was only 32. I often wonder if those people woke up in the morning and had a premonition that they would die on that particular day. Did they know something was going to happen? Did the driver who lost control of his car and ran head-on into a bridge abutment have any clue just seconds before the accident that it would happen? Did God say to him at the last minute, “Psst. Your time is up.” I didn’t know an hour ago that I was going to make this fateful decision. I had no idea earlier that I wouldn’t be around to see the sun come up tomorrow. I had sealed my own fate. No cancer, no automobile accident and no tractor. I’m holding my mouth shut tightly, but my instinct is to take a breath of air. But I know I can’t. I can’t open my mouth. There is no air. But I can’t hold it. I have to take a gasp. Then water. Numbers. Suddenly, numbers. Fucking numbers. Eighteen becomes important. I wanted to see eighteen. That was to be my day of liberation, even though my old man intended to put me out of the house. Just four months away. And now. Six. June 6. The day I was to graduate. Even though school didn’t mean much to me, it was a day I was looking forward to. It showed that Joey Carpenter, miserable fuck that I am, did accomplish something. And now. And the funniest number- thirty-five. My old man is 35. I wanted to accomplish something by the time I was his age. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be something better than that miserable fuck. And now. I don’t want to die! This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end! It’s too late. The water is engulfing my lungs. I can’t breathe. 18. 6. 35. 18. 6. 35. Fucking numbers. 18.…6.….35.………18.……………….6.…………………………….35. ******** “Doctor!” someone screamed. “I think we’re losing him!” There is movement all around me. I can sense people poking and prodding my body. Someone raised an eyelid, and for a moment I can see light and a misty figure above. Someone else is putting something in my mouth, and I can feel a tightening in my chest. Where the fuck am I? Why is my body motionless? It feels like my mind is one place, and my body is somewhere else. People are still moving all around me. And that bright light in my eyes. I try to shout and tell them to turn out the light, but my mouth won’t open. And why are they shouting and looking so worried? God! I’m dying! I survived the water, and now I’m dying in an emergency room at the hospital. God is cruel. He kept me alive just long enough to experience this. “Stand back!” Damn. What the fuck was that? It felt like a bolt of lightning surged through my body. “Stand back!” Fuck! It happened again. What is going on? “He’s coming back!” ******** “Good morning, Young Man.” The elderly nurse was looking down into my face with a grandmotherly smile. “How are you feeling today?” I turn my head away. It’s been about four hours since I regained consciousness. Since then, I’ve been repeatedly poked, prodded and undergone extensive questioning. “Why did you jump?” “Why were you trying to kill yourself?” “Why would someone your age want to die?” Questions. Fucking questions. One good thing about being in a hospital bed, no one really expects you to talk. And I don’t. I turn my head whenever someone enters and begins their endless, stupid questioning. “Why did you want to kill yourself?” Read my fucking records, Dumb Shit. I’m seventeen years old. I’m gay. I was abused by an uncle. My mother and father hate me. I lived in a garage, and I don’t even have that now. I have absolutely no future ahead of me. Why the fuck do you think I wanted to die? Wanted to die. How ironic is that? I wanted to die. Past tense. It was something I had never really considered before, and I doubt I’ll ever consider it again. But for just that one fucking minute, I made a hasty decision that would affect me forever. Forever. I guess if I had succeeded, there wouldn’t have been a future- only a past. You think of some strange shit when you’re alone after going through something like I just went through. For some reason, I tried to imagine just how my obituary would have read. Joseph Aaron Carpenter, age 17. Town whore, cock sucker and outcast of Southwestern High School. Joey will be remembered for being sexually abused by an uncle at the age of 11, and then being physically and mentally abused by an alcoholic father until the day he took a flying leap off the Washington Street Bridge. He will be remembered by nobody. Due to lack of interest, a memorial service has been cancelled. I guess that just about sums it up, doesn’t it? However, I still don’t understand my last minute remorse. Why didn’t I want to die? I know I didn’t have a lot to live for, but then I didn’t want to see it end. I want my obituary to say that I accomplished something- anything. It doesn’t matter if I was a prominent brain surgeon, or a plumber who got up every day and did what he had to do. As long as I was successful at something. I want it to state that someone loved me, and that someone will always keep me in their heart. I read somewhere that if one person holds you in their thoughts after you die, then you will always be alive. That is what I want. I remember the guy who came to speak to our psychology class last year. He was forty-two years old, and he said he had tried to kill himself when he was in college. He said that his life was reeling out of control. His grades were failing, and he was going through a break-up with a girlfriend. He said he took a gun and tried to blow his brains out. I thought I was going to vomit when he held up a large picture that showed the bathroom with blood splattered walls. I kept looking at the scars on the side of his face. Fuck. Even the plastic surgery couldn’t completely hide the hole he had in his jaw. He joked that after seven facial operations, the doctors had restored his good looks. We laughed nervously; but looking at his appearance, it really wasn’t funny. In spite of everything he’d been through, he admitted he was glad he had failed. Tears appeared in his eyes when he spoke of his life. After his hospitalization, he went back to school and graduated from law school. He became an attorney; and after four years, was an assistant prosecutor. He then met his wife, and they had three beautiful children. He even passed their pictures around for us to look at. He broke down when he said if he had died that day, then he would have missed out on the wonderful life he was now living. I think everyone in the room was moved by his story. I know I was. I guess I felt like him. I was glad I hadn’t succeeded. I didn’t have fucking much to live for, but I guess I was curious. Someday, my personal hell had to end. It had to. The odds are in my favor, right? Even the worst storm ends, doesn’t it? It wasn’t until days later that I learned that an off-duty police officer was driving across the bridge on his way home from a double shift. After seeing me jump, he pulled his car over, removed his shoes and followed me into the water. I resisted at first, but I soon passed out as he dragged my limp body to the shore. Unable to find a pulse, he performed CPR on me until the paramedics arrived. Once in the emergency room, I again went into cardiac arrest. The doctors said that I did die briefly, and they had to give me electric shocks. It explained the feelings that I encountered. Looking back, I am glad he was there. I hope I feel that way tomorrow. ******** Mrs. Fulton was sitting patiently in the chair, waiting for me to say something. We’d been at a standoff for over fifteen minutes. Again, the ever-present question, “Why did you do it.” Everyone else had given up asking, knowing I wasn’t going to answer; but not Mrs. Fulton. She was determined she was going to get the answer out of me, one way or another. “Fine then.” She arose from the chair and straightened her dress. “When we first met, I told you we could do it the hard way- or my way. I guess you chose the hard way.” I had my eyes shut tightly and my head turned to the side. I could hear her walking towards the door. “When you are released from the hospital, you’ll be sent to a juvenile facility and remain incarcerated until you are eighteen. You have violated my trust in you.” Her words were harsh and cold. It was true. She had given me a chance, and I had let her down. I had let everyone down. And most of all, I had let myself down. Tears started streaming down my face as I heard the door open. “Because I had nothing to live for!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “Are you happy? I had nothing to live for.” I buried my head in my hands and wailed. I couldn’t control my emotions. Six years of hurt came flowing to the top, and I was overcome with an immense pain. I began shaking, and I screamed out like a wounded animal. I felt the side of the bed sink as Mrs. Fulton sat down and pulled me into her. “Shhh,” she said comfortingly. “It will be all right.” “No, it won’t!” I wailed once again. I looked at her and saw tears in her eyes. “No, it won’t,” I replied emphatically. “Nothing has ever been all right for me.” I began to cry again. She held me tightly, occasionally whispering something encouraging in my ear. She reached for the nurse’s buzzer, and a minute later the elderly nurse and a man, I presumed was a doctor, entered. Mrs. Fulton walked over and spoke quietly to the doctor. He left and returned a few minutes later and gave me a shot in my right arm. Seconds later, I was fast asleep. ******** “Hey, Mother Fucker!” Ticker came barging in my room carrying a bunch of flowers and what appeared to be a few weeds. “Here,” he said as he thrust them into my hands. “I picked them for you.” “You dumb shit,” I laughed. “Half of these aren’t even flowers.” “What do I know,” he grinned. “I stole them from the neighbor down the street.” I had forgotten just how much the large, red head before me meant to me. His grin was infectious. I hadn’t laughed in days, and suddenly I couldn’t stop smiling. “You look good today,” he said. “I always look good,” I replied, rubbing the side of my face. “Whatever you say,” he said sarcastically. He stood and continued to look down at me and grin. “What?” I asked. “You are now officially mine, Mother Fucker.” He continued to look down and smile. “What in the hell are you talking about?” “Mrs. Fulton gave you to me,” he laughed. “You’re my bitch now.” “Fuck you,” I laughed. “What are you talking about?” Ticker explained how Mrs. Fulton had called him and his Dad into her office and explained the situation. She either had to find me a home in which to stay, or I would be placed in a juvenile facility until I was eighteen, which was still four months away. After hearing my options, Mr. Wendelmeirer agreed to let me stay at their home, at least temporarily. “I can’t do that,” I said excitedly. “Your family is too large to take me in.” “My Dad really don’t mind,” Ticker assured me. “He just says it’s another mouth to feed.” “You eat enough for three people,” I laughed. “What can I say,” he stated as he comically rubbed his enormous belly, “I’m a growing boy.” “I think you forgot that at some point you’re supposed to stop growing.” Ticker walked over, pulled my head under his arm and started giving me a noogie. “Stop it, Fucker!” I screamed. Suddenly, the door opened, and a nurse walked in with my medication. “I’m afraid visiting hours are over.” I looked at the clock, and it was after nine. I had lost all concept of time lying in the hospital. Days and nights became confusing, especially when the doctors kept giving me sedatives and sleeping pills. I found out later that I was on suicide watch, and that was the reason for the constant intrusions. I awoke the next morning with my mind still foggy from the pills I’d been given. For someone who liked to stay high, I didn’t like the feeling of the drugs they were giving me. Weed makes you feel euphoric. The sedatives they had me on zonked me out. I was having trouble remembering things, and I couldn’t keep track of the time of day. At lunch I wanted dinner, and at dinner I was expecting breakfast. I also didn’t feel a damn thing. When I would try to remember the events of the past few days, I was totally unaffected by the impact they had on me. The near drowning seemed like a movie on the television that happened to someone else. I even for a while tried to remember what it was like to be beaten by my father, but I gave it up after I realized that I couldn’t comprehend it. It again seemed like something that happened to someone else, not me. I dozed off for a while, maybe sometime in the afternoon. I don’t really recall. I was awakened by someone entering my room and walking over to my bed. I didn’t even open my eyes because I was sure that it was only a nurse coming in to take my blood pressure or temperature. I could sense that someone was looking at me, so I opened my eyes. “What are you doing here?” I asked surprisingly. “I saw Ticker downstairs, and he told me you were here,” replied Star. She had a worried look on her face as she stared down at me. “You came here to see me?” We had formed a semi-friendship, but I didn’t think it was close enough that she would visit me in the hospital. Besides, I wasn’t sure if I wanted anyone other than Ticker seeing me. “No,” she responded. “I came to visit someone else. When I saw Ticker downstairs, he told me what room you were in. So, I thought I’d drop by and see how you are.” “I’m all right,” I replied. “I wish I could get out of here though.” “When can you leave?” “When they think I won’t hurt myself again.” I looked up and saw a sad expression on Star’s face. “So, it is true then?” she asked. “They said on the news you had tried to commit suicide.” “Fuck,” I moaned. “I was on the news?” Star suddenly became nervous. “Maybe I should go. I don’t think I should be telling you all of this. It’s obvious you don’t know.” “Don’t know what?” I shouted angrily. “That I’m the biggest fuck-up in the city? I can’t even die right?” “I’d better go get a nurse.” Star hurried from the room and returned with a nurse. A minute later, I was sound asleep- again. The next few days were emotional. I was interviewed by two psychologists. They wouldn’t be happy until I was a babbling idiot. What is it about them? They feel they have to strip you naked, and then leave you looking in a mirror at the ugly image on the other side. Then there were the daily therapy sessions where I was forced to sit in a circle with other people who had tried to commit suicide. Do you know what it is like to sit for two hours in a shell and refuse to talk? After a while it became a showdown as to who would break first. Dr. Conrad was convinced she could get me to strip away the façade I had built around me and expose myself to a bunch of people I really didn’t give a shit about. Why the fuck would I want to tell a roomful of uncaring people my problems? “They ain’t going to let you out of here until you talk,” informed Ticker after the third day of my protest. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I shouted. “Bunch of fucking morons.” “They may be fucking morons,” he admonished, “but they make the rules, and you have to abide by them.” “You mean I have to tell a bunch of fucking strangers I was molested by my uncle and that my life has been fucked up ever since?” “If you want to get out of here, then yes,” he advised me. “Besides,” Ticker grinned. “I’ve got some excellent weed. You’ll love it.” “Fucker,” I laughed. “You should be a psychologist.” He held his fingers to his lips and pretended to be taking a hit off a joint. We both laughed at his antics. So, the next day, I went into the therapy session and told them one of the most fucked up stories I could make up. I told them how a group of boys had dragged me into a forest when I was nine years old and repeatedly raped me. Then they tormented me for several years, threatening to castrate me if I didn’t do everything they wanted me to do. I told them how I had lived with the humiliation, unable to speak to anyone. Finally, out of desperation, I decided to kill myself in order to end the torment. When I was done, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even Dr. Conrad had to wipe a tear or two away. Naturally, Dr. Conrad wanted the names of the boys involved. However, I told her that it had happened several years ago, and I never learned their names. I told her I never saw them again after I entered high school. Nevertheless, their behavior left emotional scars that had been hard to deal with. She bought it- hook, line and sinker. She was convinced that the rape and subsequent attacks had been the major factors leading up to my suicide attempt. “You didn’t!” Ticker was holding his stomach and laughing uproariously. “Raped at nine by a bunch of horny boys!” He started howling with laughter again. “Well, it worked.” I grinned broadly. “I get out of this fucking place. Are you sure your dad doesn’t mind me staying with you?” “Would you stop worrying,” he assured me. “I’ve told you, he doesn’t care. Besides, when I told him you’d help me with my homework, he seemed pleased.” “Help you with your homework?” “Well, actually, do it for me.” Ticker stood and grinned at me. “No one gets anything for free.” “Fucker,” I said with a smile. “But you love me,” he responded with a grin. “I’ll be back at two. The doctor said he’d release you then. Dad’s coming with me. He has a bunch of papers he has to sign.” “I still don’t like this,” I said worriedly. I knew Ticker said his family didn’t mind, but they knew that a troubled kid was going to be staying with them. My attempted suicide had been in the news, so I knew it would be something we all would have to deal with. After eating lunch, I grew extremely restless. It was a beautiful Saturday, and I just wanted to leave. If I could break away for a while, I wanted to go to Sullivan Lake and spend some quiet time. The doctors could feed me sedatives all day, but one hour at the lake would be all the therapy I needed. I walked out of my room and wandered around. Except to attend the therapy sessions, I had never seen much of the hospital. The nurses glanced at me when I walked by, but no one made an attempt to stop me. As I wandered down one long corridor, I saw Star approaching. She smiled as she got closer. “Did they release you?” “Not yet,” I replied. “This afternoon. I have to wait until Ticker’s dad gets here.” She grabbed my hand. “Then come with me.” We went to the elevator, and she hit the button to the fourth floor. When the door closed, she stood back and looked sheepishly at me. “Where are we going?” “I want you to meet a friend of mine,” she informed me. “I’ve been coming by every day to visit him.” “Who is it?” “A friend,” she replied. The doors opened, and once again she took my hand and led me down an empty corridor. When we came to room 810, she stopped. “Now when we go in,” she warned, “don’t be alarmed. He doesn’t like visitors, so he might seem a little irritable.” I asked, “Then why are you taking me in?” “I think you two will like each other.” She looked at me with expectation. I don’t know if this was something she had planned, or if it was just spontaneous when she saw me in the hall. I was beginning to feel anxious about going in. “Come on.” As if she read my mind, she grabbed my hand and led me into a dark room. As we approached the bed, I immediately recognized the sleeping figure. He slowly opened his eyes, and they filled with anger. “What are you doing here?” “Allen?”
  9. Chapter 4

    Thanks, Everyone, for all the concern you are expressing towards Joey. But as in life, the darkest hour is just before dawn.
  10. Chapter 4

    Who came up with weekends? What lame brain said that we should not go to school, but instead take a couple days off? I hate the weekends. It’s really lonely for someone like me. What do I have to do? I leave home before my old man gets up and starts drinking. I don’t want to be around to be his whipping boy just because he feels like taking his shit out on someone. My mom has been listening to his crap for eighteen years. She has this amazing ability to just shut him out, and he’s defenseless against it. He’s never once hit her, which means I became the object of his resentment. So, I just get the fuck out of Dodge. What does someone who has no friends do when there is a forty-eight-hour opportunity to do anything you want to do? I usually drink and get high, just so I can forget that I have no friends and nothing to do. That is why I like school. At least I have something to do to take my mind off my miserable existence. The way I see it, since I’m there, I might as well make the most of it. That’s why my grades are so high. My mind is a sponge for information; the same way my liver is a sponge for alcohol. I think they are in a race to see which one goes out first. My vote is for my liver. That is, if my lungs don’t win the race from all the weed I’ve smoked. I’ve made my way to Sullivan Lake again. It’s warm out today. I have taken off my shirt, and I’m basking in the warm sun. It feels good. It makes me almost glad to be alive. Almost. And what was that shit with Allen the other day? I stopped by the coffee shop this morning. I even checked out the bridge; you know, just in case he decided to do it this morning. But he wasn’t anywhere. For the past few nights, every time I close my eyes I keep seeing the emptiness behind his. It terrifies me. I guess I shouldn’t give a shit, but I do. I can’t explain it. In my short life, I’ve met a lot of lonely and tragic figures. Guys have poured out their hearts to me after I’ve sucked their dicks. They feel this need to seek absolution, I guess. By telling me their miserable life stories, they feel it will justify what we did. But Allen is different. I love it here. It must be what God meant for the Garden of Eden to be like- calm and peaceful. Wouldn’t it be great if the world was like this? No shit going on. Just, what’s the word I want? Yeah, serene. People getting along and things like that. No fighting, wars or other things that we’ve fucked up. Peaceful and calm. Sometimes when I’m lying like this, I wonder if this is what eternity is like? Wouldn’t that be great to spend forever feeling like this? No one yelling at me, telling me what a miserable fuck I am. No more sucking a stranger’s dick just to get some money to be able to do the things I shouldn’t be doing in the first place. But for a few hours each week, I still got this. It’s the one thing I think I would miss if I ever left this fucking place. Sullivan Lake. It’s the only place I am not me. I don’t know what I mean by that. It’s like I leave for a while and become something, I don’t know- spiritual, I guess. There’s nothing here that defines me. No sex, drugs or alcohol. No screaming fuckhead of a father, and no disappointed look on my mother’s face. I don’t have to put up with the condescending looks of my classmates, and there’s no ‘fag’ or ‘Joey Hoey.’ It’s just calm and peaceful. It’s what I want to be, but I don’t have a fucking clue how to achieve it. How can I take what I’m feeling this minute and hold it? I get about a mile from here and return to the real world, and the same old shit starts all over again. And where the fuck is Allen? I want to bring him here to Sullivan Lake. Ever since the other day, I want him to come here and experience what I feel. Maybe the sun will penetrate his vacant eyes and give him a moment of peace. Then again, maybe I won’t. This is my thing. It’s not meant to be shared. If I share it, I will be giving away a part of it to someone else, and I can’t do that. I know that sounds selfish, but what else have I got? ******** “Yeah, Kid?” Louie asks as he cracks the door open and looks angrily out. “The usual.” “Hang on.” Louie returns a minute later and hands me a paper bag with the cheap wine wrapped inside. I give him a ten, and he slams the door shut. Suddenly, I hear footsteps behind me. I turn, and two police officers are running toward me. One of them shouts, “Don’t move!” Instinctively, I turn and haul ass. It’s not the first time I’ve had to run away from a situation. I hear one of them running about six feet behind me. He must be a young cop. The older ones usually don’t last too long. I jump over a fence and head down an empty alley. I can still hear him behind me, but now he’s gasping for air and he’s fallen a few feet further behind me. “Stop running, you Son of a Bitch!” He hollers in exasperation. I laugh to myself, knowing he’s rapidly tiring. “Gotcha!” I didn’t see the cop step out from behind a building and take me down. He must have played football in high school, because he grabbed me around the waist and we both tumbled to the ground. Before I regained my senses, I was handcuffed and being placed in the back of a police cruiser. “You don’t look so smart now.” The younger cop who had been chasing me was leaning against the door, still gasping for air. I wasn’t doing much better. My chest was killing me. The weed was affecting my wind capacity. I used to be able to run for miles without even breathing hard. A few blocks, and I now felt like I was experiencing a heart attack. He slammed the door shut, jumped in the car and drove off. I thought he was taking me to jail, but we headed in the wrong direction. He drove up to Louie’s and parked outside. Within a few minutes, Louie and two of his clerks were brought out in handcuffs. Louie looked inside the cruiser at me and sadly shook his head. I feel like a miserable piece of shit. Because he felt sorry for kids like me, he was now probably going to serve some time in jail. Louie is one of the good guys, know what I mean? He understands street kids, and he never tried to take advantage of us. “Are you taking me to jail?” I asked the cop after we pulled away. “Nope, Kid.” He turned around and looked at me. “You’re only seventeen. It’s juvie for you.” Damn. I knew what that meant. Since I was being taken to a juvenile facility, they’d have to call my old man. Shit. I’m screwed. If they had taken me to adult jail, I would have been locked up until my court appearance without my parents knowing anything about it. They probably wouldn’t have even noticed I was missing. ******** “So, tell me Mr. Carpenter, why did you want the alcohol?” The elderly woman who had been assigned my case was looking down and reading my arrest report. She looked tired. I’m guessing that she could probably give a rat’s ass why I drink. I’m just another folder on her desk that she has an obligation to handle as quickly as possible. “I wanted to give it to the dog,” I answered sarcastically. “I see,” she said, removing her glasses and glaring at me. “Listen, Smart Ass. We can do this my way, or we can do it the hard way. I think you’d much prefer my way.” I tried to hold her gaze, but I looked away after a few seconds. She’d dealt with guys much worse than me over the years. This was my first arrest, and I was way out of my league. “Sorry,” I apologized. “It’s just something I do now and then.” She put her glasses back on and spent several minutes thumbing through a folder that had my name on it. For someone who had never been in trouble before, there was quite a bit of material in the folder. She stopped reading and studied me for a minute. “Why is a boy with a 4.0 GPA sitting across from me being charged for underage consumption of alcohol, failure to comply, evading police and resisting arrest?” I hung my head. I had no answer to give her. What was I to do? Tell her my whole life story that lead up to the answer she wanted. Even if she had the time, I’m sure she wouldn’t care to hear it. She just wanted to get this over with as effortlessly and painlessly as I did. “You have nothing to say?” “No, Ma’am.” The silence in the room was deafening. As I hung my head, I could tell she was still staring at the top of my head. There was no noise, no shuffling of papers or the interruption of a telephone call. Just silence. She finally cleared her throat and spoke. “Look at me, Mr. Carpenter. Joey.” I raised my head and looked into her sympathetic eyes. “I notice that you go to Southwestern High School.” She thumbed through some more papers on her desk. “It was a little difficult since it’s a Saturday, but I got hold of Mr. Walters, the assistant principal. After reading your school records, I realized I wasn’t dealing with a boy who is prone to a life of crime. We don’t get many honor students in here. I found your case intriguing.” She looked up and gave me a questioning look. “So, I’m trying to understand what brought you here today. My guess is a lot of it has to do with your father.” At the mention of my old man’s name, my mood changed to anger. I sat erect and became extremely defensive. I didn’t know where this conversation was going. Sensing my anger, she said, “Calm down, Joey. After talking to your father on the phone, I am quite sympathetic. He’s a real asshole.” I bit the top of my lip, trying to stop a smile from appearing on my face. The last thing I would expect a juvenile counselor to say was that my father was an asshole, even though it is true. “Mr. Walters shared a little bit of information with me.” She sat back and once again studied me quietly. “I don’t think incarcerating you will do any good. In fact, it could be detrimental to your case. Despite a bad home life, you go to school and make exemplary grades. He tells me that you may well be this year’s valedictorian, depending how you keep up your grades the remainder of the year. I have to admit, I find that very respectable.” “So, what’s going to happen to me?” I asked. She seemed to want to help me; but there didn’t seem too much she could do, considering my present circumstances. “Is there any responsible adult who can come and sign you out?” My head sprung up, and I looked into her smiling face. “You’re releasing me?” “Yes,” she responded, “and I hope I’m not making a mistake. I’ve been doing this for twenty-six years and I’ve never been wrong yet with my hunches. Please don’t be the first to prove me wrong. You’ll be eighteen in a few months, and by the time this made its way through the juvenile system you’d be an adult.” “But I don’t know anyone,” I sighed. “Did you talk to my mother?” “Yes, I did.” The frown on her face made it apparent the position my mother took. She had to keep peace at home. If it meant abandoning me, then it was the price she was willing to pay. I suddenly had an idea. “Can it be anyone who is over eighteen?” She nodded her head. “As long as they are eighteen and willing to be responsible for your conduct.” So, Ticker arrived an hour later. He met with the counselor, who I later learned was Mrs. Fulton. She had Ticker sign a few papers. Most were rather routine. She was treating me basically as an adult, which she said wasn’t all that unusual for someone who was approaching the age of eighteen. When I asked about the charges against me, she said they would be dropped, assuming I stayed out of trouble until I turned eighteen. I was also banned from going anywhere near Louie’s. That wasn’t a problem, since I was pretty sure Louie would never want to see me again. “I told you that someday your vices were going to get you into trouble.” Ticker grabbed me, pulled my head under his arm and began giving me a noogie. It had been several years since he had done that. I tried to pull away, but since he was twice my size, it was futile. “Stop it, Fucker!” I squealed. “That shit hurts.” He let me go, throwing his arm protectively around my shoulder. “What are you going to do now?” he asked worriedly. “Your old man isn’t going to take this too well.” “Tell me.” I couldn’t decide if he had chosen decapitation or castration as a suitable punishment for my rebellious behavior. We got in his car and drove away. “Where do you want me to take you?” “Home, I guess.” I didn’t know where else to go. I knew I would have to face his wrath sooner or later. It had been a couple of years since he last beat me, so maybe he thought I had gotten too big to hit any longer. “You sure?” He looked over at me with a worried look. He knew how angry my father could be. Ticker was the only person who had really seen the bruises my father had inflicted on my body when I was younger. He would daily look at the bruises on my back and tell me what color they were. I was always relieved when he told me they had disappeared; then I could go swimming again in the local pool- at least until the next time. “Not really,” I replied, “But where else am I going to go?” Ticker dropped me off a block from my house. That was the usual routine. I wanted my father to think that I was walking wherever I went, just in case he was watching my activities. When I approached the house, I could see my mother peeking out through the curtains of the living room. She closed them when she saw me look at her. When I walked around to the side of the house to the garage door, my clothes were thrown all over the yard. It looked like my father had taken my dresser drawers and just dumped them out. There were a couple of garbage bags nearby. I suppose that was my mother’s contribution. I tried my key in the door, but it wouldn’t work. My father had changed the lock so that I couldn’t enter the house. Dejectedly, I turned and stuffed the small amount of clothing strewn over the yard into the trash bags. Once done, I threw them over my shoulder and headed off down the sidewalk. I didn’t have a clue where to go. One thing was certain, I needed money. There was only one way I knew to make it. I hit the streets, and by midnight I’d been picked up by six guys. One was a regular who tipped me nicely. I now had $150 in my pocket. At least I would be able to eat for the next week. Finding someplace to sleep was a different problem. I had nowhere to go. I had no family in the area and no friends. I couldn’t stay at Ticker’s house. He came from a large family. There were three teenage boys in the home. The last thing they needed was another mouth to feed. Besides, if Ticker did ask me to stay, I’d probably refuse. I knew it would cause a problem with him and his family, and I didn’t want to come between them. Sullivan Lake is cold at night. I’ve layered almost every article of clothes I own, and I’m still lying here shivering. A small breeze is blowing across the lake, and it’s almost unbearable. But where else am I going to go? If I stayed in the city, I would have to sleep in an alley somewhere. I was sure to be beaten and robbed by morning. I may be a street kid, but I don’t have a lot of street savvy. I can pick up a john and score some weed, but I don’t know how to defend myself. That was evident when Gene Albright wanted to kick my ass. A real street person would recognize my weakness immediately. So, I came out to the lake. At least I knew I would be safe. Although I did lie awake most of the night because I wasn’t use to the strange noises that the outdoors produces. I kept hearing the leaves rustling around me, and I was worried that some stray animal would come suddenly upon me. And then there was that damn owl. He hooted in the tree over my head most of the night. ******** “You look like shit.” Billy Joe was the first person to notice me Monday morning when I entered school. Camille even wrinkled her nose when I approached. I was carrying my two bags of clothing, hoping I could cram them into my locker. “I feel like shit,” I responded as I wandered off in the direction of my locker. I tried to sleep during first period. However, Mrs. Vandyke, my physiology teacher, was lecturing. She had a habit of walking around the room and standing deliberately over students whom she thought weren’t paying attention. She seemed to be spending an unusually long time at my desk. “Would Joey Carpenter report to the main office?” Everyone turned to look at me when the announcement was made over the PA system. I arose from my desk and hurried from the room. “His boyfriend is here to pick him up,” someone said loudly as the rest of the class started laughing. When I entered, the school secretary asked me to have a seat. She said that Mr. Walters would like to see me. He was on the phone, but he would be with me shortly. Fifteen minutes later, he walked out and motioned for me to follow him to his office. When I sat down, he leaned back in his seat and put his hands behind his head. He stared at me for about a minute before saying anything. “You got yourself into a little trouble over the weekend?” He continued to stare at me as he rocked slowly in his chair. “Yes, Sir,” I replied embarrassedly. My head was down as I watched an ant slowly make its way across the floor. “I talked to Mrs. Fulton, and she told me she released you with some conditions.” “Yes, Sir.” Again, I refused to look up. “I’ve known for some time that you’ve had problems at home,” he said softly, “but you seemed to be all right. You come to school and do well. I know that you’ve had trouble with other students sometimes harassing you, but you seemed to deal with it. And I’ve heard the gossip of what you do once you leave these doors.” Goddamn it! NO! Not fucking tears. I can’t stop them. They’re flowing down my cheeks; and no matter how quickly I wipe them away with my sleeve, they still keep falling. Mr. Walters handed me a handful of tissues and sat quietly while I composed myself. I don’t think I had ever been so embarrassed in my life. Even going to school with bruises on me wasn’t as bad as breaking down in front of another man. I don’t know what happened. I guess it was the gentle way he was talking to me. It kind of reminded me the way Uncle Mike would talk softly to me- like he cared about me. “You look unclean, so I’m guessing that you didn’t stay at home this weekend?” I just sat looking down and shook my head. “You want to tell me what happened?” Again, the tears began to flow as I sadly shook my head. “Here.” He leaned across the desk and handed me a piece of paper with an address on it. “What is this?” “It’s the address of a halfway house,” he informed me. “We have three other students who are currently staying there. You’ll be safe. I called Gerald McAfee, the director, and he’ll be expecting you after school.” “Thank you.” I reached out and took the paper and put it in my pocket. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be using it, but at least I had an option if I needed it. “Can I go now?” “Joey,” he said almost in a whisper. I looked up at him and saw a concerned look in his eyes. “You’re a bright boy, maybe one of the best we’ve ever had at this school. Honestly, I don’t know how you do it with all the things going on in your life. Why bad things happen to good people, I don’t have an answer.” I sat and let the tears fall from my face unashamedly. Across from me sat someone who genuinely cared for me, that I knew. The least I could do was listen to what he had to say. “Regardless of what you’re thinking now, you have a bright future ahead of you,” he said. “You’re too smart to throw it away.” I started nervously laughing. “Maybe my future is bright, but right now things are fucked up.” “Give Gerald and his staff a chance to help you,” he assured me. “No disrespect, Mr. Walters,” I responded sadly, “but I don’t think anyone can help me.” I turned and walked out of his office with tears flowing from my eyes. I had been consumed with depression before, but nothing compared to the way I was feeling. I didn’t even bother to go to class. I just headed for the nearest exit and left the school. In my mind, it would probably be the final time. I was determined never to return. I roamed the streets for most of the day, looking into cars for someone to pick me up. I got in the car with one elderly gentleman, and he took me into a nearby alley. I sucked his cock and jumped out of the car before he even had a chance to pay me. Fuck it. What’s the point anymore? Night time in the city is a scary place. I had walked around endless hours before, but I always returned home. This time I had to survive, and it was frightening. I roamed the dark alleys trying to find a safe place to sleep. My head was hurting, and I just wanted to lie down for a few hours. I heard a song on the radio a few years ago which I found amusing. The lyrics said something about the creeps coming out at night. That was never truer. I don’t know where they hide during the day, but they permeate the streets at night. They look hard. Most appeared empty and lifeless. They just wander in search of something. For some, it is a discarded cigarette butt lying on a sidewalk. For others, it is a naïve person who will give them a dollar handout. For others, it is sex. Not the kind you pay for, but the kind you just take. I found a place to hide that I thought was reasonably safe; but within ten minutes I was approached and asked for money. One guy went so far as to go through my pockets. Luckily, I had hidden it in the bottom of my shoe. Another guy sat down across the alley and just stared at me. He’d nod occasionally, but I wasn’t sure why. I soon found out. He took out his cock and started masturbating. When he rose, walked over to me and pointed it in my face, I ran out of the alley and into the street. The clock on the bank said it was 2:13. It had been over three days since I had had a decent sleep. I felt like a zombie walking the eerily quiet streets. It’s funny how things just suddenly go silent. Earlier, the noise had given me a headache. Now, the silence was making me uncomfortable. As I walked down the street, I had a weird feeling that I was being watched. I kept stopping every minute or two and looking back to see if I was being followed. I peered carefully into every alley as I passed by, expecting someone to jump out at me. I fumbled in my pocket and retrieved the number to the halfway house that Mr. Walters had given me earlier in the day. I was able to find a phone that worked. It has always baffled me why people pull out the receiver and leave it lying in the phone booth. Was it done by an angry boyfriend or by some vandals getting a momentary thrill? I dialed the number, but I got a recorded message. A fucking recorded message. I thought they were in the business of helping kids. How in the hell can they help someone on the street late at night when all you get is a recording saying, “We cannot answer the phone at the moment. Please leave your name and number, and we will get back to you shortly.” I slammed the phone down. Out of frustration, I ripped the receiver off the hook. I guess that answered my question as to who would do something like that. I wonder how many other phones have been ripped out by some desperate kid needing a safe place to stay at night? I then headed to the only place I knew where I would be safe- Sullivan Lake. Since I was on the other side of town, I had to pass over the bridge where I had met Allen Foster a few days earlier. I sat down in the middle of the bridge and pulled my legs tightly against my body. The wind was blowing a cold breeze from the water below. Depression consumed me like never before. I had hit rock bottom. I felt there was no hope and no way out of my current situation. The black paint had been splattered completely against the easel. There was no trace of any color- just utter darkness. I stood up. Fuck it.
  11. Chapter 3

    “Oh yeah, Kid. That feels good.” The guy shoved my head down further on his dick. I could tell he was getting ready to cum, and he was hoping to shoot his load in my mouth. I know how to avoid it now. When I first started, guys were always shooting their first load in my mouth. But now, I can tell when they are close. The head expands and the shaft becomes hard as steel. We were parked in an alley behind a warehouse about three blocks from Louie’s. I was in an awkward position, leaning over the gear shift. I tried to get the guy to do it outside behind a garbage bin, but he seemed frightened. I think he thought I was setting him up to be robbed. “Oh, Damn,” he moaned. That was my cue. I tried to pull my head up, but he shoved it down and then exploded into my mouth. I gagged and pulled my head up before he shot into my mouth again. “What the fuck did you do that for?” he screamed when I spit his cum out onto the floorboard of his car. He continued stroking his cock, draining it of the remaining cum. He reached under the seat, pulled out a couple of paper towels and cleaned himself off. “You son of a bitch,” he spat. “Look at the fucking mess you made on the floor.” “I told you not to cum in my mouth!” I screamed back. “That’s going to cost you ten bucks more.” I had already received twenty dollars. I never went down on a guy unless he had paid me first. I learned my lesson when I first started doing this shit. If you don’t collect first, a guy will pull you out of his car and tell you to get lost. They know that nothing will happen to them. What am I going to do? Call the cops and tell them a guy refused to pay me for giving him a blowjob? Hustling can be a dangerous game. No one protects us. The guys I have sex with sure don’t give a damn about me. All they want to do is get off and then go home to their wife, three kids and a dog. The police sure as hell don’t give a shit if I live or die. Hustlers are just a nuisance to them. Where we work the streets, drugs and violence follow. I’ve been lucky so far. I try to be careful. I haven’t been beaten up by anyone. A few have chased my ass down the street when they wanted to fuck me, but I refused to let them do that. As strange as it may seem, I want to save myself for the right guy. It’s the only thing I really have to give someone. Sure, Uncle Billy fucked me, but that really didn’t count. I was just a kid, and I didn’t know what I was doing. But since then, I’ve kept myself intact until I meet the right guy. “Get the fuck out of my car, Kid.” He unlocked the door and motioned for me to leave. “You still owe me,” I insisted. “I told you if you wanted to cum in my mouth it would be extra.” I crossed my arms and refused to leave. He gave me an angry look, took out his wallet and tossed a ten into my lap. I guess he was afraid if we sat in the car any longer, a police cruiser might pull into the alley. “Fuck you,” he hissed as he tossed me the money. I got out of the car and flipped him off before he drove away. I memorized the make of his car and the license plate number. If he ever came back another night, I’d be sure not to get in his car again. I walked to Louie’s and knocked on the back door. A clerk cracked the door open, and I handed him a ten. He returned a few minutes later and handed me a paper bag with two bottles of cheap wine. As I headed home, a cruiser drove slowly down the street. I ducked into an alley. It was past curfew; and since I was underage, I didn’t want them picking me up and taking me home to my parents. My old man would probably tell them to keep me. The house was locked when I returned. I went around to the side of the garage and took a long piss. Once back inside, I lay on the bed in the corner of the garage and pulled the cover over me. Again, I feel a pity party coming on. I can’t control them. They consume me when they hit. Even the wine and the weed I got earlier from Ticker aren’t helping. I get this sensation that I’m falling, and it frightens the shit out of me. I close my eyes and it’s always the same. I’m standing on the railings of a bridge with my arms out, and I can see myself jump. I can feel the wind blowing in my face as my body plummets toward the ground. It is like one of those shows where people are parachuting out of a plane, and they have their arms open as they soar through the air just before pulling on the rip cord. However, I don’t have a rip cord. My breathing quickens, and I close my eyes and tremble before my body splatters on the ground. But I never hit. I just keep falling and falling, waiting for something to happen. However, it never does. That’s my life. I’m falling and falling, waiting for the end to hit me, but it never does. It’s a nightmare knowing that someday I will hit the bottom- hard. I don’t know when, or where. However, one thing is certain- I will. Fuck it. I can’t lie here like this. My mind is swirling from the wine and the weed, but it hasn’t dulled my senses enough to sleep. It’s two in the morning, and I have to get up and go to school in a few hours. I’m going to look like shit again. What the fuck do I care? What the fuck does anyone care? I’m cold. I like being cold, though. It clears my head as I walk around the streets. A few guys have tried to pick me up, but I’ve ignored them. Why are these guys driving around so late at night trying to find someone to suck their dicks? I’d feel sorry for them, but I got my own problems. Damn, it just dawned on me. They’re probably just as fucked up as I am. They’re probably out driving around lonely and depressed. The night brings out people like us; people who are too afraid of going to sleep because of our nightmares. So, we come out searching. For what? Who knows? We just hope that something will come along and end the fucking nightmares. ********** “You look like shit.” Ticker walked up and threw his arm around my shoulder. “More nightmares?” “Yeah,” I responded. Ticker knows that I have trouble sleeping. That’s why he is always generous when he gives me bags of weed. I never told him the nature of the sleeplessness, but I think he has figured it out long ago. As we walked down the hall, two guys bumped roughly into me. I recognized them as two of Gene Albright’s friends. In fact, they had been the guys who had tried to get him to fight me the day before. “Watch it Mother Fucker,” spat one as he shoved me again, only this time with his hand. Ticker squeezed my shoulder tightly and tried to pull me away. “Fuck you.” I turned and hissed loudly. He stopped and faced me. “You’re going to get yours someday, Fag.” We stared at one another. Students around us stopped getting books from their lockers and watched us. Again, they could sense a fight. “What’s your boyfriend going to do?” I replied sarcastically, looking at the guy standing to his right. He clinched his fist, and I could tell he wanted to hit me. “Not here,” the other said. “But soon.” He grabbed his friend by the arm and they walked away. The warning bell for first period rang and students began to scatter. “You all right?” Ticker asked. I looked at him and saw a worried look on his face. “Yeah, I’m all right. Same shit, just a different place,” I replied sadly. I removed his hand from my back and headed off slowly down the hallway. “Fuck it.” I headed toward the exit. God damn tears! I’ve got goddamned tears in my eyes. I don’t cry anymore. Never! But right now tears are running down my face. I don’t even know where I’m going. I’m just walking. I feel like running, but my legs won’t let me. I want to scream- and run. I want to run and scream down the street until my body collapses on the sidewalk. But my body won’t run. “Hey, Kid?” I look over and see a man who picked me up last week. “You looking for some action?” “Fuck you!” I scream, and then I run down the street. My body is finally moving. It’s like I’m running in slow motion. People on the street stop and move out of my way before I plow into them. “Crazy kids!” I hear one old woman state as I go running past her. I must have run for miles. I don’t know. It was probably just a few blocks. I look down and see the river flowing by. There are a few ducks bobbing up and down in the water. They are struggling to get over the next wave that carries them along. I lean over the railing of the bridge, gasping for air. I look down and can see my body falling, as in my nightmares. Only this time, it is real. I can actually do this. The moment has come that I’ve been waiting for all my life. It’s now or never. “Go ahead.” I blink the tears quickly from my eyes, as I realize someone has approached me and is standing several feet away. I look over and see a guy, probably in his 20’s, looking at me. “What?” I asked angrily. His presence has interrupted my fate. The mood has quickly left me, and now I’m consumed with anger. “Jump,” he challenges me. “Go for it.” “Fuck you,” I shout and begin to walk away. “Do it!” he screams. “Fucking do it!” “Do it.” He begins to cry and then his body collapses against the bridge wall. I watch as he sinks down and grabs his legs and pulls himself into a ball and weeps. “Do it.” He mutters through his tears. I watch as his body is wracked with anguish. He is shaking uncontrollably and is sobbing violently. I stand in amazement and watch the crumbled guy before me. I walk over to and kneel beside him. I don’t know what to do. He is a stranger who just a minute earlier wanted to see me jump to my death. “Why wouldn’t you do it?” He cries as he looks up pleadingly into my face. “Why?” I ask. “If you do it,” he sobs, “then maybe I’ll get the nerve to do it too.” Once again, his body shakes with emotion. “I come here every day, and I can’t bring myself to do it.” Suddenly, I begin crying once again. I throw my arm around his shoulder and pull him into my chest. He is so thin. I can feel his shoulder blades against my hand. We sit for about ten minutes without speaking. Suddenly, he stands. Before I realize what is happening, he grabs the rail and begins pulling himself up onto it. “No!” I scream. I reach out and grab his thin body. We fall to the ground. I am pressing my body into his, trying to keep him from getting up again. “Let me do it!” He screams and thrusts his body against mine. “I want to die!” I lean in and place my face against his. I whisper in his ear, “It’s all right. Everything’s going to be all right.” Both of us are crying uncontrollably. I can feel his frail body trying to get up, but he is too weak to exert much force. After a few minutes, I feel his body collapse under mine. We both are exhausted. “Let me up, please,” he insists after we have lain for several minutes. “No,” I whisper weakly. “I’m all right now,” he replies. “Please let me up. I can’t breathe with your body on mine.” I raise my body off his, but I keep a hand on his thin arm. For the first time, I get a good look at his face. It is thin and gaunt. He looks like he was a handsome boy at one time. I didn’t know what had taken away his health, but I was sure it was the reason he wanted to die. Because of his frail appearance, it was hard to tell exactly how old he was. He could have been sixteen or twenty-six. I really couldn’t tell. He had brown hair and sunken brown eyes. It appeared he hadn’t slept for weeks. We sat up and rested our bodies against the wall of the bridge. Cars passed by us and slowed down. A few even stopped and asked if we were all right. I’d nod, and then motion for them to drive away. “Thanks,” he says. He starts to get up, “I gotta go.” “Wait.” I grab his arm and pull him back down. “You can’t just leave.” “Why?” he asks. “Why do you care?” I didn’t have an answer. Both of us had come to the bridge, each for his own reason. Both of us wanted to end our lives. I felt a closeness with this frail guy that I had never experienced with anyone else. We had both shared our miserable lives with each other. I couldn’t let him leave without at least finding out his story. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I just do.” He looked into my eyes. His seemed blank and now emotionless. “Well, don’t,” he said flatly. He stood and brushed himself off. He gave me a final look, and then turned and started walking away. “Hold up!” I shouted as I sprang to my feet. I followed closely behind him. He turned and looked at me several times, but continued to slowly walk away. I looked at his thin body. His tee shirt was draped over his shoulders, and he kept pulling his pants up on his small waist. When we crossed the bridge, he headed south. I continued to trail about six feet behind him. I wasn’t going to let him just disappear from my life. I needed to know what had just happened out on that lonely bridge. What had brought us together? We walked a few blocks, and then he entered a small café. He approached the counter and ordered a small coffee. He then turned to me. “You want something?” he asked. “Since I can’t get rid of you, you might as well join me.” For the first time since meeting him, I saw a slight smile on his face. “A coke,” I answered. I reached into my pocket to take out a dollar, but he stopped me. “My treat,” he said. The waitress handed us our drinks, and I followed him to a table at the back of the café. Since it was late in the morning, we were the only ones there. We sat for a moment in silence. Occasionally, he’d glance at me, but he mostly stared at the steam rising from his cup. “My name is Allen. Allen Foster.” He extended his frail hand across the table and shook mine. His grip was weak. I thought for a second that I might break his hand when I grabbed it. “I’m Joey Carpenter,” I replied. Again, he stared into my eyes. I could see the sadness he hid behind the sunken brown eyes. You don’t go through the shit I’ve been through and not be able to recognize it in others. I didn’t know his story yet, but I could tell he had been though a similar pain and suffering I’d been through. By the looks of his body, I was sure he had suffered much more physical pain than I had. We sat again for several moments in awkward silence. My mind was racing to find out his story, but I didn’t know how to go about asking. Finally, I decided that if I was going to find out anything, I’d have to make it fast. His coffee had almost disappeared from his cup. “Why?” I asked. “Why, what?” He looked at me. He knew what I was asking, but he was either trying to be coy, or he didn’t want to talk about it. “Never mind,” I said dejectedly. I felt it was none of my business why he wanted to jump from the bridge. Besides, I didn’t want to tell him my reason, either. We sat for several minutes before he finally spoke. “I’m sick,” he muttered softly. “What’s wrong?” “I’m just sick,” he stated. There were several more awkward moments before he spoke again. “What’s your story?” “My life is a fucking mess.” I looked at him and laughed nervously. “Enough to die?” He stared intently at me for an answer. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I have to go.” He stood and looked down at me. “Thanks for being there today.” “You too,” I smiled up at him. “Thanks.” He started to walk away. I jumped up and ran to catch up with him as he headed down the sidewalk. “Can I see you again?” “Why?” “I just want to see you again. That’s all.” “I’m here every morning,” he said. “Before I head for the bridge.” He nodded and walked away. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I watched him slowly disappear down the street. After the affair at the bridge, I was exhausted. I was physically and emotionally drained. On the walk home, I couldn’t get Allen’s sad countenance out of my mind. It had been years since I felt anything for anyone. Hell, I’m not sure I had ever felt emotionally for anyone, but Allen had touched me like no one before. He had penetrated my soul, and it was an unsettling feeling. In the hour we had spent with each other, I felt a connection. Maybe it was because I felt we shared an unhappy past. “I’m sick.” Those words haunted me. Not the words, but the way he said it. It was as if he said it with a sense of doom. My life is fucked up, but at least I know I have another tomorrow to make it through. I’m not sure Allen can say the same. And if he was sick enough to die, then why didn’t he just wait and let it come to him? Why does he go every morning to the bridge, hoping to muster up enough courage to jump? I’m pretty sure that I had no intention of jumping today. I just wanted to see what it felt like. You know, since I’ve been there in my dreams so often. I wanted to experience the sensation of actual height. But would I have really jumped? The thing that unnerves me is I can’t answer with certainty that I would not want to jump. I don’t have much of a future. Maybe I’m like Allen, just waiting for the guts to take that final plunge, ending this madness. If I did, who the fuck would really care anyway? My folks would be pissed because they would have to deal with burying me. That could be one reason to do it. I’d like to see the look on his face when he gets the bill. That would serve him right. Shit, he’s never spent a dime on my ass for the past several years anyway. It would be payback, and you know what they say about that. I go home, after stopping by Louie’s and getting a couple bottles of happy juice. I’m out of weed, so I’ll just have to drink myself to sleep. Fuck. It’s cold tonight. This thin blanket I bought for a quarter at the thrift shop isn’t keeping my ass warm at all. And Allen. I can’t get his fucking gaunt face out of my mind. Motherfucker had to creep into my life. Now I want to know his story. No, I have to know his story. It’s just what I wanted was one more thing to think about; as if my life isn’t already fucked up enough. ******** “Can you tutor me after school today?” Star ran up and grabbed my hand on the way to first period. “We have a big paper due next week, and I could really, really, really use your help.” She looked at me and gave me a puppy dog frown. Again, it was a surprise to other students to see me walking hand in hand with a girl. I think they would have been less shocked if it had been another guy. They would have expected that. “Sure,” I said. She squeezed my hand tighter, and I asked, “You don’t understand British poets?” “I don’t understand American ones,” she laughed. I turned and held both her hands and recited, “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, pourest thy full heart in profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” “Show off,” she giggled as she slapped me on my arm. “Who was that? Tennyson?” “Ouch,” I muttered. “You do need help. That was Shelly. Mr. Vickers covered him yesterday.” “A Spring Evening Churchyard?” She guessed timidly. “Wrong,” I laughed. “To a Skylark. And it’s A Summer Evening Churchyard.” “I told you I was failing,” she said sadly. “How much of the paper do you have done?” We’d had the assignment for two weeks. I had finished mine about three days after it was assigned. Most of it dealt with interpreting the meaning of the poems. I found it to be quite easy. “I’ve tried to read three of them.” She looked up and smiled, but it quickly disappeared when she saw the stern look on my face. “You’ve only read three?” I asked incredulously. “And did you do anything with them?” “I threw the book across my bedroom,” she laughed. Suddenly, a frown appeared on her face, followed by a stream of tears. I took her in my arms and comforted her. It seemed strange, that for the second time in as many days, I was feeling a connection with another person. First, Allen; and now Star. And the connection wasn’t sexual or physical. Two people had come into my life, and I was sure it was not by pure coincidence. “Meet me in the library after school,” I told her. “We’ll study there and get you caught up.” “Thanks.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. It was the first time someone had kissed me since I was about ten years old when my mother would kiss me as she put me to bed. I kissed her quickly on the cheek and hurried away before she could see the tears that were forming in my eyes. After lunch, I was on my way to fifth period when I saw Billy Joe and Camilla walking my way. They approached and stopped me. Camilla instantly grabbed my arm and began rubbing it. Billy Joe had a serious look on his face. “We gotta talk, Man.” “What?” I asked as I pulled Camilla’s roving hand from my arm. Several students began whispering as they noticed her action. I laughed inwardly because I knew their image of me being the school faggot was being challenged. “Word around school is that Gene Albright has it in for you,” he warned. “No shit,” I laughed. “He got ten days because he wanted to kick my ass yesterday.” “I’m serious, Joey,” he warned. “He’s a real homophobe. You better watch out. He’s making a lot of threats. I was smoking last night with a guy who knows him pretty well. He’s out to get you. You’d better watch your back.” Billy Joe patted me on my back and walked away. Camilla rubbed my arm a final time before giving me a small wave. She then ran up to Billy Joe and wrapped her arm around his. If I had cared more, I would have wondered just what kind of a relationship they had. Star was waiting in the library after school. She was sitting toward the back, away from most of the other students. She had her literature book open, and she was chewing on her fingernails. She looked up and smiled when she saw me approach. I sat down, and we began to work on the areas where she was having trouble. Unfortunately, it was the entire book of English literature. “This is useless,” she sighed after about fifteen minutes. “It sounds like a foreign language to me. Are you sure this is written in English?” “It is a little difficult,” I confessed. She grabbed her book and pointed to a passage. She read, ‘Nymph of the downward smile, and sidelong glance, In what diviner moments of the day art thou most lovely?’ “Just what the hell does that mean?” She threw the book down on the desk, making a loud crash. The librarian looked over and gave us a look that only a librarian can make. “That’s John Keats,” I said. “He’s admiring her beauty.” “Why can’t he just say she’s pretty then?” “Then it wouldn’t be great literature.” “It wouldn’t be garbage.” Star slammed the book shut, earning us another of those librarian looks. This time it was accompanied by a shushing sound. “I give up,” she moaned as she put her head on the desk. “Star!” We both jumped when we heard a shout. I looked up and saw the boy who had tried to get Gene Albright to fight me in the hall yesterday. “I want to talk to you,” he insisted. “Drop dead, Barry.” Star gave the boy an irritated look. “I said I want to talk to you,” he said more adamantly. “Now!” “And I said drop dead, Barry,” Star spat back. The librarian rose from here desk and headed our way. “Is there a problem over here?” She stood challengingly in front of the guy who had intruded our study session. “This boy is bothering us,” Star replied, emphasizing the word boy. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Young Man,” insisted the librarian. “This ain’t over.” He pointed an angry finger at me before storming away. I couldn’t figure out why he had decided to come into the library after school and disturb us. “Sorry about that,” Star said timidly. “Who was that?” I asked. “My brother, Barry.” “What’s his problem?” “He doesn’t want me associating with you,” she replied. “He’s Gene’s best friend. We live next door to Gene. He and Barry have been friends since like forever.” “So your brother is a gay basher just like Gene?” I asked. “Barry does whatever Gene tells him to do,” she replied. “If he told him to jump off the roof of the school, Barry would do it.” “How do you put up with such an asshole for a brother?” “I just tell him to drop dead,” she giggled. “I noticed.” Becoming serious, I asked, “Have you heard anything about Gene wanting to do something to me?” “I haven’t heard anything, Why?” “Someone warned me that Gene was planning something.” “I’ll keep my ears open,” she assured me. “If I hear anything I’ll let you know.” “I don’t want to come between you and your brother,” I insisted. “You won’t,” she answered sadly. “We haven’t been close in years.” She gathered her books and put them in her book bag. “Thanks for helping me.” “We didn’t get much accomplished today,” I reminded her. “It’s still nice that you wanted to. Thanks.” She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and left the library. I looked around and noticed a few students watching me. I got up, flipped them off and walked away.
  12. Chapter 2

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for hanging in there. Readers who follow my stories know I never disappoint them.
  13. Chapter 2

    “Can anyone tell me what the positive and a negative coterminal angles are to angle A if it is -200 degrees?” I had my head down on the desk, but I wasn’t asleep. Honest. I was just bored with the way Mrs. Moss taught the class. She treated us like we were a bunch of morons. We were in advanced trigonometry, for Christ’s sake. All right. I’m smart, so sue me. Just because I hustle and live in a garage doesn’t make me stupid. I’ve always done well in school. Well, almost. I hate history. History is always about wars. I have my own battles to fight. Do I really give a shit how MacArthur led the troops into Manila Bay? “Mr. Albright?” Mrs. Moss’s voice screeched like a parrot in a pet shop. I looked over at Gene Albright- God’s gift to every teenage girl who ever had a sexual fantasy. His blue eyes looked frantically around the room as he pushed back his long, blond hair. I chuckled inside knowing he probably hadn’t been paying attention, and he was hoping someone would give him the answer. “Well, Mr. Albright?” Mrs. Moss’s parrot voice screeched again. He looked at me and ours meet briefly. I shrugged my shoulders and laughed to myself again. God, he is handsome. I’m just glad he isn’t on the street, because if he was, no one would want anyone else. He could make a fortune. His cheeks blushed as he responded, “I don’t know, Mrs. Moss.” “Why do I even try?” She screeched in despair. “I might as well talk to the blackboard.” She turned and addressed it. “Do you know the answer?” Students broke out in laughter. “She is so stupid,” I muttered to no one in particular. I just find it ridiculous when teachers try to amuse students with their inane actions. “What?” She turned and her eyes narrowed as she approached me. “Did you have something to say, Mr. Carpenter?” “No, Ma’am,” I responded as I returned her glare. She didn’t intimidate me. After my old man, I wasn’t afraid of anyone. “Then perhaps you can tell me the answer to the question I just posed?” She stood smugly looking at me with her arms crossed. A small smile appeared on her face because she thought she had the opportunity to embarrass me. “160 degrees, positive. 560 degrees, negative.” I stated sharply as I returned her glare. Her eyes narrowed in anger. We continued to stare for several seconds. There was an eerie silence in the room. I always try to remain a nonentity in school. I come to school, do what is expected, and leave at the end of the day. Except for a few words shared with Ticker, I hardly ever speak to anyone. I have a feeling that most students are afraid of me. Not because I intimidate them with my size. I’m tall and skinny, remember? Not exactly your bully physique. I heard a girl once remark to a friend in the hallway when they passed me, “You have to be careful around him. It’s the quiet ones who you have to be afraid of.” I chuckled to myself when I heard her words. What did she expect me to do some day? Terrorize the school? Afraid not. I don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks about me. Mrs. Moss let out a small huff, turned abruptly and walked to her desk. Several students sitting nearby started giggling when she muttered, “smart ass,” as she walked away. “Bitch,” I muttered back. The guy next to me started laughing. Mrs. Moss’s body stiffened, but she continued to walk away. I was pretty sure she had heard me. I guess she chose to ignore it, rather than provoke another confrontation. She stood behind her desk and then looked at the clock on the wall. “Since Mr. Carpenter has decided to take up so much of my teaching time, then I’m afraid you’ll have to do the work at home.” The students moaned, and then they turned to look at me. I sat defiantly, glaring at Mrs. Moss. I knew what she was doing. Since she couldn’t intimidate me in class, she was going to try and turn the class against me. “I want you to do all the problems at the end of chapter 16.” She glared at me. “Man, Mrs. Moss,” moaned Gene. “That’s going to take me all night.” “Don’t blame me, Mr. Albright,” she responded smugly. “Blame Mr. Carpenter.” Just then the bell rang. I stood and several students brushed against me as they walked past. “Thanks a lot, Fucker,” spat Gene as he pushed past me. “Bite me,” I replied challengingly. “You wish,” he responded as he hurried away. Oh yeah. Did I mention that the entire school knows I’m gay and that I hustle? That information has made me a leper around school. Everyone thinks I’m a walking, sexually transmitted disease. Last year one of my regulars was dropping me off outside Louie’s, just as a group of girls from my school came walking by. “Thanks, Honey,” the john yelled. “That was great. Can I pick you up same time next week?” He hollered out the window as I tried to quickly walk away. However, he called it out just as I walked past the girls. They started giggling and pointing at me. “I knew there was something strange about him,” one said. “Must be a fag,” said another. They continued to look back and stare at me as they walked away. By the end of school the next day, everyone had heard about it. For a few months, I was known as Joey the Hoey. They don’t call me that any longer, but they also don’t speak to me, either. I’m going to get even with everyone next year. My counselor said that it looks like I may be the valedictorian of our class. I’ve been working on my speech for a few months now. I’m writing two. One I’ll submit for the approval of the principal. The other is the one I’ll actually read. As I exited the class, Gene was standing across the hall with a couple of his friends. I turned to walk away from him, but he stepped in front of me, blocking my path. His two friends moved up beside him. “Thanks to you, Cocksucker, we have additional homework,” he said angrily. I raised my head and stared into his face. I could sense nervousness in him. He was trying to put on a show for his friends, but I could tell he was trembling inside. “Move out of my way,” I replied sternly. I looked down and saw him balling his hand into a fist. Students began to rush around us, pushing me closer to him. “Fight!” someone shouted, and then I was forcefully pushed into Gene. He raised his fist and hit me in the right side of the face. “Shit,” I thought. Not again. I don’t need this. I just want to come to school and then leave. I’m the guy who to tries to go around unnoticed. Now, Gene was forcing me into a confrontation. I could tell by his nervousness he didn’t want it either; but his friends, and now the students gathered around us in the hallway, were hungry for action. “I’m not fighting you,” I said emphatically, and then I tried to push my way through the mass of students who were anxious to see a fight. Just then, someone pushed Gene into me. I turned to shove him away, but once again he threw a fist into the side of my face. Neither punch was thrown with much force. Besides, I had endured my father’s punches for years, so I was used to taking a hit. I could hear a whistle in the background. I knew that sound. It was Mr. Walters, the assistant principal. He always blows his whistle to get students’ attention. He says it makes more noise than him shouting. I could sense the mob of students begin to part, and soon Mr. Walters was grabbing me around the collar. I turned to pull his hand away, but he gave me a warning look. I knew if I touched him, I might as well kiss my valedictorian spot goodbye. He grabbed Gene by the arm and jerked him away from me. “Both of you go to my office and wait.” I gave a final glance at Gene, and then pushed my way through the crowd and headed to the office. I looked back once and saw Gene stomping angrily down the hall about 20 feet behind me. This fucking sucks. I’ll probably get suspended, and I didn’t do a damn thing. I tried to walk away. I told Gene I didn’t want to fight him, but all Mr. Walters saw was me in the middle of the fight. You can look at my face and see the beginnings of bruises, while Gene doesn’t have a mark on him. That should indicate I didn’t hit him. But Walters won’t listen. He has a reputation as a strict disciplinarian. His idea is, that if he can use one student as an example, then others will fall in line. Word around school is he doesn’t tolerate fighting, in any form. So, I guess Gene’s fist against the side of my face was my participation in the fight. Gene and I waited in the office for about fifteen minutes. It became a glaring contest. Neither of us wanted to be the first to look away. If we did, it showed weakness. I know I can’t beat his ass physically, but mentally I can win. I don’t have a problem getting into someone else’s head. It’s my own I can’t control. Suddenly, the door flew open, and Walters came barging in. He cast an angry look at Gene and seemed to ignore me. He walked to the counter and wrote something on a piece of paper and then walked over to me. “Here,” he said, handing me the paper. I looked down and noticed it was a hall pass with my name on it. “What’s this?” “Go to class,” he ordered. I looked questioningly at him, and then rose and left the office. On the way out, I heard him say angrily, “Go to my office, Albright.” I turned and watched Gene get up from his seat and walk dejectedly down the hall to Walter’s office. What in the hell just happened? I’m sure Walters will deal with me later. It can’t be that easy. He’s probably going to talk to Gene first and get his side of the story, then he’ll call me to his office later and suspend me. Gene will plead his innocence, and Walters will buy it. I’m the school fag who no one talks to, right? Gene is Mr. BMOC. Who will believe my side of the story? Fuck it, I don’t care anymore. I’ve wanted to leave this suck hole for a long time. The only reason I stay is to piss off these bastards around here. I want to rub it in their faces when I receive my diploma and give my speech. I wish Walters had kept me in the office. The class I reported to was Mr. Henderson’s AP History class. I don’t know why he’s fixated on the Civil War. He talks about it like we are still in the 1860’s. Didn’t we move past all this slavery shit? I think he gets an orgasm thinking about young African girls being sold naked on the auction block. When he described it to us last week, he had to sit down in his chair. And everyone thinks I’m the school pervert. Jesus, now he’s fighting the Battle of Antietam again. We’ve heard this story at least a dozen times. Half the class is asleep. I’d put my head down, but I know Walters is going to call me to the office any minute. I was surprised when the bell rang ending class, and I hadn’t been summoned. Lunch follows History. Talk about a poor schedule. Henderson will make anyone lose their appetite. “Look here,” I hear a familiar voice behind me. It’s Ticker. I turn, and he’s holding a joint in his hand. “Herbal medicine from the Gods,” he laughs. He throws his arm around my shoulder and leads me out the side door. Ticker is the only guy in school who couldn’t give a shit what people say about him socializing with me. He always says, “Look at my fat ass. Don’t you think they already talk about me?” We always end up laughing because we know it’s probably true. The only reason anyone talks to Ticker is because he supplies weed to half the student population. I’ve never figured out how he does it without getting caught. He’s usually pretty cautious, though. He never sells at school, and he won’t sell to anyone he doesn’t know personally. He’s not one of the dealers who stand on a street corner selling dope to small kids. He also sells nothing but marijuana. He says, “Crack and meth are for losers. Weed makes you high, but it doesn’t make you crazy.” He threatened to kick my ass last year when I asked him if he could score me some cocaine. I was going through some heavy shit in my mind, and weed and alcohol weren’t helping. I thought I needed something stronger. It was the only time I thought I seriously was going to lose him as a friend. He told me if I touched shit like that, then not to come around him anymore. I could tell by the disappointed look on his face he meant it. It took me two weeks to get him to talk to me after that. “I heard about what happened, Man,” he said as he passed me the joint. We were behind a garage where they maintained the school buses and vans. There were a few other students smoking, some cigarettes, others joints that they probably had purchased from Ticker. “Yeah,” I replied. “Walters will probably call me in and suspend me this afternoon. Fuck, I’m screwed. I didn’t even do shit.” “You haven’t heard?” He looked at me questioningly. “Heard what?” “He ripped Albright a new asshole.” Ticker was looking at me and smiling. He started laughing when I gave him a blank stare. “I heard a couple of students told him that you hadn’t done anything, that you didn’t want to fight him.” “Well I didn’t,” I replied. “But why would anyone stand up for me?” I couldn’t believe that students would side with me over Gene Albright. It had to be a former girlfriend who was trying to seek revenge on him. “Maybe they took a truth pill,” he laughed as he passed me the joint. “Or maybe they were high.” He laughed again as he blew a puff of smoke in my face. “Nothing like some good dope to mellow you out and tell the truth.” “What did you hear happened?” I really don’t give a shit about Gene, but I was curious. “Ten days,” informed Ticker as he held up five fingers. “You’re fucked up,” I laughed. He butted the remainder of the joint and threw an arm around my shoulder. “I’m hungry now.” “You’re always hungry,” I laughed as I poked him in his large stomach. As always, his pants were low over his stomach, and his tee shirt was hanging out. Ticker never cared much for making a fashion statement. I don’t usually like eating in the school cafeteria. For one, the food sucks- big time. A joke circulating around school is that one night two rats were found pounding on an exit door begging to get out. And secondly, no one wants me here. On the rare occasions I do eat in the cafeteria, students panic when they see me walking through the cafeteria looking for someplace to sit down. God forbid I’d ever sit down with them. I got even with Barry Davidson last year. He had been tormenting me for months, calling me names and pushing me in the hall. One day I noticed that he was sitting alone at a table. I carried my tray over, set it down on the table and sat down across from him. The surprised look on his face was priceless. You could hear students all around us begin to snicker. “Sitting with your boyfriend, Davidson?” Someone across the cafeteria hollered. The cafeteria broke out in laughter as Barry’s face turned a scarlet red. He got up and hurriedly left the cafeteria. That was a good day. We walked through the food line, and I bought what I thought was a slice of pepperoni pizza. It was triangular and had something that resembled circles on top. I also purchased an apple. That I could easily recognize. There’s not too many ways the cafeteria staff could ruin an apple. However, I wouldn’t want to wager a bet on it. “Look, Joey,” announced Ticker. “I have to go talk to Wagner a minute.” He motioned with his head at a black-haired, goth-looking student standing at the door. Billy Joe Wagner is as much a leper at school than I am, if that’s possible. He wears a black trench coat and paints his finger nails black. He also pierced his tongue last year. He likes to sit in classes and fuck with students by staring at them and then acting like he’s writing their names down in a little black book. He’s got everyone scared shitless that he’s making a hit list and he’s going to come to school one day and shoot them. Ticker and I got high with him one Saturday night a few months ago. After getting fucked up, I actually asked him if it was true that he was making a hit list. He put his arm around me and pulled me into him, and he laughed uproariously. “Fuck no, Man.” He pulled the book out and opened it up. “I’m a fucking poet,” he laughed. “Sometimes I get an idea and I got to write it down before I forget it. But I love it when I see the frightened looks on their faces. Fuck ‘em.” He let me read some of his poetry. Wagner is one fucked up dude. I thought I had problems. His writings are so dark, that even I had trouble relating to it. Since that night we kind of bonded a little. We don’t hang out with each other, but we will occasionally speak when we pass each other in the hall. I guess outcasts have got to stick together. I followed Ticker to a table by the door, and he put his tray down. “Don’t let anyone fuck with my food, Joey.” He nodded and then disappeared through the door with Billy Joe behind him. I sat down and took a bite of the pizza. It tasted like cardboard, and I couldn’t even bite into the pepperoni. I pushed my tray aside and began eating the apple. “You’re not going to eat that?” Ticker asked as he sat down and lifted the pizza and began biting into it. I sat in amazement and watched it disappear in a couple of bites. He then began eating the two hamburgers he had purchased. “What?” He asked as he saw me staring at him. “How can you eat that crap?” “When you’re a growing boy like me,” he said as he patted his enormous stomach, “you’ll eat anything.” “You’re a fucking pig,” I laughed. “But you love me,” he stated as he opened his mouth and showed me the contents of the half-devoured mixture inside. “Later, Dude,” I frowned as I pushed myself away from the table. Ticker is like a brother, but even that has its limits. I walked outside and headed back behind the garage. I saw Billy Joe and a couple of girls standing in a circle. Billy Joe looked up and motioned me over. Hesitantly, I approached. “Here,” he said as he handed me a joint. “Ticker has some good shit this week.” I took a puff and inhaled it deeply before blowing it out. “Want to do a shotgun?” One of the girls asked as she moved up beside me and held my head down. I cringed when she grabbed me around my waist and pushed her tits against my chest. I quickly pushed her away. She wasn’t a bad looking girl. Any other guy would have been happy to have her pressed against him. “Forget it, Camilla,” laughed Billy Joe. “He plays for the other team.” I gave him an angry look. “It’s cool, Dude,” he apologized. “No one around here cares.” “It’s a shame,” said Camilla as she rubbed her hand against my chest. Again, I flinched and stepped back. “We could have had some fun.” “Don’t worry about it, Joey,” said Billy Joe. “She wants to fuck any guy.” “I don’t hear you complaining,” shot back Camilla. She reached down and ran her hand against his black leather pants. I noticed it begin to harden. Camilla leaned over and whispered something in his ear, and his cock continued to harden to full length. “Here,” Billy Joe handed me the remainder of the joint, grabbed Camilla’s hand and led her away. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where they were going. They were heading in the direction of the football stadium. I’m sure if those bleachers could talk, they’d have a lot to say. I turned to head back into the building, when I realized that another girl had been standing unnoticed off to the side. “Sorry,” I apologized. “I didn’t see you there. I’m Joey.” “Everyone calls me Star.” She looked up at me and blushed. She was very attractive. She was petite, standing only about 5’2”. She had long blonde hair that cascaded off her shoulders and down her back. She had the most beautiful deep blue eyes. They reminded me of the color of the lake water on a bright sunny day. She had on a long flowing dress that was blowing gently in the wind. “Would you like to hit this?” I asked as I held up the half-smoked joint. “I don’t mess with drugs,” she responded. I started to put it out, but she reached out and gently touched my hand. “But it’s all right if you do.” I put it to my lips and inhaled deeply while Star closely watched me. For some reason, I suddenly felt naked as she studied me. “Why haven’t I seen you before?” Star asked. “I know most of Billy Joe’s friends.” “I’m not really a friend,” I replied. “Actually, I’ve only spoken to him a few times.” There was an awkward silence as we cast glances at each other. I was afraid she was going to hit on me like Camilla had. “How did you get the name Star?” I asked, trying to break the uneasy silence. “It’s a rather unusual nickname.” “It’s not a nickname,” she replied. “It’s my real name.” “Sorry,” I apologized. I could feel my face begin to redden. “It’s all right,” she smiled. “I get that all the time. When my mother was pregnant with me, she said she saw a falling star streaking across the sky the night before I was born. She decided to name me Star.” “I guess it’s better than being named Streaker,” I laughed. She put her hand over her mouth and giggled. “That’s funny,” she laughed. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.” Again, we stood in awkward silence. Occasionally we’d look at each other and smile. Star was the first girl who had ever made me feel comfortable. I was pretty sure she knew I was gay, and she didn’t seem to be disgusted by my presence. Just then, we could hear the bell ringing inside the building. “I guess we better get to class,” Star said. She seemed disappointed that the bell had interrupted us. “What class do you have?” I asked. “English Literature,” she sighed. “Mr. Vickers?” “Unfortunately,” she sighed again. “I’m failing the class.” “I have him first period,” I replied. “Perhaps I can tutor you.” “Really?” Her blue eyes lit up. “You don’t know how much I’d like that. If I don’t pass the class, I won’t be able to graduate next year.” “Don’t worry, Young Lady,” I said as I held out my arm. She wrapped it around mine, and we began walking into the building. “I’ll make sure you pass.” She suddenly stopped and turned to me. “Why?” “Why, what?” “Why would you want to help me?” “Why not?” I laughed. “That is if you don’t mind being helped by someone like me.” “Why would I not mind being helped by one of the nicest boys in the school?” “Who?” I laughed as I looked around the hallway. She stood and smiled up at me. “You don’t know much about me, do you?” I asked. “I know all I need to know,” she replied. She grabbed my arm once again as I walked her to her class. It seemed like everyone we passed looked back and remarked about us walking arm in arm together. I guess they couldn’t figure out what a gay hustler would be doing with a beautiful girl. Honestly, I didn’t quite know myself. .
  14. Chapter 1

    I'm doing very well, droughtquake. Things are good in Ronyxworld. Thanks for your (and the other author's) concern. --Ron
  15. I have posted the first chapter to another story, Brittle as a Bird. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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