What Hadn't Happened
by Trey Waring
I once had a best friend. More than a best friend, a blood-brother. But he's gone. He didn't die, I don't think, I don't know, but he's gone.
I guess I should start when we first met. He moved in during the middle of the school year. I was in the fourth grade, he was in the third. Alex. What a dork. Red and brown hair, freckles, and glasses. Kind of short, kind of skinny. He lisped, and he stuttered. What a fucking dork.
Anyway, no one liked him. Not even me. Some of the guys made fun of him, but I wasn't that type of kid. I felt kind of sorry for him sometimes. He went ignored and pretty much friendless. I saw him talking to some of the other dorks in different grades, and he started sitting with them at lunch. I pretty much forgot all about him, like I did his friends. They were there, and sometimes they got picked on, but most of the time it was like they didn't exist.
Like I said, he was a year behind me, and the school was pretty small, so all us kids knew all the other kids, no matter what grade we were in. But, on the first day of sixth grade, there was Alex, in my class. He was the smallest kid in our class, and boy, did he get a lot of shit that year. He didn't lisp anymore, and he had stopped stuttering, but he still took so much teasing. I don't know how he took it all, but he did. And I admired him for it. I knew what admiration was by then, and I knew I felt it for him.
When we started junior high, things changed. Lots of things got different.
Me and my friends noticed girls, and learned about sex. Masturbation, mostly, but you know. And Alex changed, too. He had always worn brown, plastic-framed glasses, but now was wearing normal wire-framed ones. Instead of those horrible, multicolored, polyester, button-front shirts and those nerdy not-jeans, he started wearing normal shirts and jeans. His hair was different, too, now parted mostly on one side and the long bangs brushed over to the other, the sides all brushed back, and kind of long in back. Now there was more red in it than before.
Yeah, I noticed, but almost everybody did.
Our friends didn't change, though. They changed some, individually, but we both hung out with the same groups we always had, the groups were just bigger. My friends and I played sports and made fun of the nerds. Alex was a nerd, and so were his friends.
Half way through seventh grade, Alex started helping me and my friends with history. Alex wasn't a total brain, but he knew a lot, and he was good at explaining stuff. He taught us about the Founding Fathers and the early history of America much better than our teacher did. I was sort of amazed at how much he knew about history. He seemed to really like it, and he was so animated when he was telling us about it.
I already admired his smarts, but now I started admiring him for the way he would help anyone who asked him for help. And he would treat anybody decently, so long as they treated him and his friends, and others, decently. But if he saw someone act like an ass toward his friends, or anyone, really, he wouldn't help that person. Sometimes he'd walk away from the guy, sometimes he would explain it, sometimes he'd tell the guy off, but he wouldn't have much to do with someone who acted poorly to anyone he liked.
I liked that, and I wanted to be like that, too. So I started hanging around with him and his friends at school. I didn't stop hanging around with my current friends, and I had to put up with some crap from them, but I did. If Alex could put up with what he did, I was determined to put up with what my friends dished out. I got to like Alex, and his friends. They were geeks, sure, but they treated me like I had always been their friend. I started spending more time with Alex and his friends after school than playing sports with my other friends. I started picking up stuff from hanging around with them, getting smarter, kind of, getting better grades.
Alex and I got to be pretty good friends. He never tried to get me to spend less time with my other friends, but my other friends sure tried to get me to stop spending any time with Alex and his friends.
In February during seventh grade, Harry Meyers chased Alex home after school. I liked Harry. He was one of those guys who thinks he's better than anyone else, and he had an attitude like he was, too, but we got along. We were pretty good friends. I'd seen him go after other guys before, and didn't care much. But now he was chasing Alex, and that really fucking bothered me.
I was a fast runner, hell, I was good at anything physical I wanted to do, so I dropped my books and took off. I ran Harry down just as he started cutting a corner. I brought him down and was on top of him before he knew what was going on. I had his arm behind him and my knee in his back.
"What the fuck?" he asked, so winded he was hardly able to talk.
"Why are you after Alex?"
He turned his head around enough to look at me.
"He's a dork!"
"What's it to you? He your boyfriend?"
I punched him in the face. It felt so good.
"He's my friend. That's all. That's enough. You leave him alone. Hear me?"
"Because he's helping me and my friends with history. And if you fuck with him, we won't like it. Get me?"
"Fine. Just get off me."
I jumped off of him using my knee, so that it hurt him. I didn't mean to hurt him. Like I said, I liked Harry.
"And if you don't leave him alone, we'll have to make sure our tutor stays safe. Get me?"
He got up and said, "Yeah, okay, fine. I get ya."
Alex was nowhere to be seen. I don't think Alex ever found out why Harry hadn't caught him that day. I know I never said a thing about it, and I spent a lot of time with Alex after that. I started hanging out at the table where he had lunch, too. Dorks or not. I kept picking up the stuff he and his friends talked about, and my grades kept getting better.
I found out that Alex and I liked a lot of the same things. We liked the same books, and we liked the same kinds of movies. Even music. And we liked the same foods. I even started playing Dungeons and Dragons with him and his friends.
I spent the second half of seventh grade kind of torn between two groups of friends. I didn't want to choose, so I didn't.
By the end of seventh grade, I think I was better friends with Alex than I had ever been with anyone before. I started spending the night at his place. Every weekend during school, then almost every day during summer break. And that was something!
See, I might look perfect, but I have this, problem. Well, I did, then. See, I, uh, have, a small bladder. If I drink a lot before I fall asleep, I might, uh, have an accident during the night. God, so embarrassing. So, sleeping over at someone's house was entirely new to me. But Alex talked me into it. I brought a sleeping bag to sleep on, and pajamas to wear to sleep in, in case. And I was so careful not to drink anything after dinner. Maybe a little water if I got really thirsty, but only a very little.
So you see how big a deal it was that I started spending the night at his place.
Eventually, it happened. It was just after seventh grade had ended, and I was staying at his place almost every night. And one night we thought we were going to stay up all night. Well, we didn't. I'd had a soda at like, about ten. By midnight, we fell asleep. By dawn, I had woken up. And I had, you know, had an accident. God, so embarrassing. I didn't know what to do! I wore pajamas, so my clothes were dry. I changed. I put the sleeping bag and pajamas into the trash can. I walked home. I was humiliated. I hoped he would think I went home for some other reason. I hoped his rug wasn't wet. I should have thought to check.
But, I get home, and a couple hours later, he calls. I almost couldn't answer when Mom said he was on the phone. I almost asked her to tell him I had gone back out, but, I picked up the phone. He asked why I had left. I told him I didn't feel well. He said he had something really important to talk to me about, that I had to go back over to his place. I tried to get him to tell me on the phone, but he kept saying that it was too important. Finally, I agreed to return to his place.
When I get there, he closes his bedroom door behind us and tells me he found my sleeping bag in the trash. Then he tells me how his cousin still has the same problem, and how he knows it's not my fault, and how he don't care. He washed the sleeping bag and pajamas before his parents even got up. He says he just wants to forget it and have fun all day. I could have hugged him, if it wasn't so faggy.
I knew then that Alex was probably the most caring and decent guy I had ever known. How many friends would have done that? I know that most of my friends would have laughed and told everyone. My life at school would have ended. But it was Alex, so my secret was safe.
So we got even closer. And one day a few days later, he says there was something he wanted to do. He takes me out to the little shed out behind his house and closes the door. He pulls out a little pocket knife and I start wondering what the hell he's thinking.
"Trey, I wanna be blood-brothers. I think you're great. And I want to do this, so we can be best friends."
"We don't have to, to be best friends. I think we already are."
"Okay," he said, and grinned real big, then put away the knife.
"But, let's do it," I said, meaning it. "Let's be blood-brothers, man."
He smiled even bigger, and that made me feel great.
We cut our left palms and held them together.
"Best friends, blood-brothers, until death," he said solemnly.
"Best friends, blood-brothers, until death," I agreed.
I felt awesome! I had never done something so... intimate with anyone before.
We made up a way to leave notes for each other that was so secret, that someone who didn't know how to open the folded paper would destroy it trying to. And we gave each other secret names. I called him X, and he called me Three. But only alone. We had other nicknames our other friends gave us and knew about, but they knew nothing of our brotherly names.
Not long after that, we started doing something that we kept doing until... what happened. One night that summer he tried to tell me thatStar Trek was a better universe than Star Wars. I mean, come on. So what could I do? I pinned him until he agreed that I was right. We were wrestling around, and I already knew he had no chance, so I was messing around, letting him think that he did. I didn't want him to feel bad, ya know? The problem was, I got hard.
We ended up wrestling a lot. Sometimes he would make the stupidest arguments, almost like he wanted to be contrary, or was trying to piss me off. Now, looking back, I wonder...
So, wrestling. Yeah. Sometimes I would bounce on him, making it hard for him to breathe so that he couldn't call uncle too soon. Sometimes I would hold down his arms and tickle his sides until he couldn't breathe.
I told you how I wore pajamas, so I wouldn't, you know, if I had an accident, I wouldn't get my clothes all nasty. Well, I couldn't wear underwear, either, or they'd be all nasty, too. So, I always wore just the pajama bottoms. Well, sometimes I would end up, you know, all worked up. So I'd have to go to the bathroom and take care of it. Sometimes I could put it off until he was asleep. But I had to do it almost every night I stayed over at his place.
I started to worry. I mean, you don't get all worked up when you're with a guy, right? But I was. And my friends kept saying things about Alex, like how he was probably gay, just because he was a nerd. I never believed it. But, I wanted to make sure.
I started changing into my pajamas right behind him. Instead of going into the bathroom, I'd sit on the bed while he watched television or listened to the radio, and I'd change. I kept looking out of the corner of my eye, waiting to see him look, even just once. Never. Not once. He even seemed a little uncomfortable about it. I stopped it before he got suspicious of why I was doing it. And because I didn't want to make him wonder why I was doing it. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Not Alex. Not my blood-brother.
I took our blood-brotherhood very seriously. He became more to me than all of my other friends combined.
So the summer between seventh and eight grade went by in a freaking blur. Probably the best summer of my life. Honest. We rode our bikes all over. We rode to the arcade, the mall, the library, the woods... oh, shit, yeah, the woods. We loved Salt Creek woods, and they weren't far from where we lived. We would stay there all day, sometimes camp out all night. There was a creek there, too, and we'd sit there in a place where the were no trails and no signs that anyone else even knew about it. Wow, did we love it there. We never went there with anyone else.
We did spend time together with our other friends. My friends Danny and Rob would hang out with us, and they'd treat him okay, but nothing like how his friends, Bill, Wally, and Terry, treated me. My friends put up with Alex, but Alex's friends treated me like I was their friend, too.
By the middle of eighth grade, I had to work to spend any time with my other friends. I would forget about them. I really only wanted to spend my time with Alex. I stayed at his house after school almost every day until it was time to go home. On weekends, I stayed at Alex's house until Sunday night. We biked, we talked, we played Dungeons and Dragons with his friends, we listened to music, and he played his synthesizer to some songs.
Things were great, until one day I caught Steve Chandler standing over Alex out in front of the school. I don't know why he had pushed Alex down, and it didn't matter. I rushed him and knocked him down. We rolled around on the snowy sidewalk until I managed to get my hand around his worthless throat. I got one good punch in before Alex asked me not to hit him again. I wondered why, but if Alex didn't want me to, then I wouldn't. Steve promised to leave Alex alone. That was good enough. Alex wasn't hurt, and that made me happy.
Things were great again for a while, until Brock the Rock followed Alex into the bathroom between lunch periods. As I walked into the lunchroom, other kids were walking out, and Victor Burnson told me what he saw in the bathroom, and to hurry. I walked in just as Brock was about to pocket the money Alex had handed over. He turned to leave, and I put the hardest, most powerful punch I had into his jaw. He kind of glazed over and fell down. I kicked him a few times, to make sure that he wouldn't get up and take me out. I wasn't any kind of great fighter, but I was pretty good. I knew how to use my body to put my weight behind my hands.
Well, Alex asked me to stop. I could only agree. I took the money from Brock and gave it back to Alex. Brock had a big mouth, and he threatened Alex. Well, he threatened both of us, but it was the threat to hurt Alex that mattered. I couldn't have that. I put my foot into his jewels. I told him it would be better not to even look at Alex. He started to say something stupid, so I put another foot into the same area, but his hands blocked me from scoring. He agreed to leave Alex alone, anyway.
I had to smile when I saw that Alex was okay. I felt so relieved.
Brock asked me the next day why I gave a crap about a geeky little dork like Alex. I told him he was my tutor, and my friends' tutor, too, and we intended to protect our grades.
What a mistake. I didn't know it then, but that was the end of the beginning.
See, Brock asked Danny. Danny didn't know what Brock was talking about. So Brock asked Rob. He didn't know, either. Brock asked all around, and found out that Alex helped all of us out sometimes, but none of my friends knew anything him being some kind of tutor, or about protecting him. And, of course, Brock talked to Harry.
After a while, my friends started asking me about Alex. It was uncomfortable. Very. And I didn't handle it real well. I even traded insults and such with Rob. It was bad. I told them Alex was my friend, and if they were my friends, they should just trust me and let me be friends with who I wanted, right?
Things were okay again for a while. Then, one day, Alex told me that there were rumors about us. I almost lost my cool. I could deal with it alone, but it obviously bothered him, and that really pissed me off. He told me it was being taken care of, and tried to calm me down. He did, and easily. I suddenly felt like joking around. I told him maybe we should go to the prom together. So he asks which one should wear the dress. Man, I laughed. So I said we both should, and go as lesbians. As easy as that, the rumors were forgotten. By us, anyway. Or, maybe, just me.
So things were okay again, but not for long. It seemed like the rumors really bothered him. He got quiet sometimes, even sometimes when he should be laughing. Days went by, and I could tell that something was bothering him. On the weekend before the prom, he tried to talk about it. It almost made him cry, and that almost made me cry, and I never cry. It was awful. I told him that if he couldn't talk about it, that I'd understand.
He said, "I can't," and wiped at his eyes.
His tears were like knives in my heart.
I was sure it was those damned rumors.
Anyway, things went back to normal, except some of my friends seemed, I don't know, distant? Worried? I don't know. I didn't care. Alex and I were cool, that was all that mattered.
But the rumors really got me thinking. And my friends kept saying things, and asking me things about Alex. It would piss me off sometimes.
I tried to see if Alex was gay, but he never did anything that made me think he was. I told my friends so, but they didn't seem to care. I intentionally forgot to take my pajamas into the bathroom to change one time, and I came out in my underwear to get them. He never seemed to notice, except to cut a joke, and sure didn't look at me in any weird way. For a while I changed into my pajamas where he could watch if he wanted to again, but he never did. The wrestling seemed to make me hard sometimes, well, almost all the time, but it never seemed to bother him that way. He never grabbed me somewhere he shouldn't when we wrestled, except for accidents. He never talked gay, walked gay, acted gay, or anything. Hell, I got hard when we wrestled, that made me more gay than Alex, so I wasn't worried that he was because I knew that I wasn't.
When prom came, most of my friends had dates. I didn't. But, I didn't want to. The whole dating thing seemed so stupid. I just didn't want to get tangled up with some girl and have to watch where I looked, explain where I was, all that. And I just wasn't interested in girls. I just guessed I was going to be interested later. I knew I didn't have the guts to ask anyone out, anyway.
I wanted a girlfriend, sure, just not soon. When I thought of sex, it was girls. Of course. I even thought of girls when I jerked it.
On the night of the prom, I blew it off. Alex and I went to Archer's Drive-In and checked out all the cool cars. We had polish sausages, fries, and root beer floats. It was awesome, except I saw someone I knew, and they gave us the strangest looks. I wanted to get away from them and anyone else. I was worried they would think we were on some kind of date or something. But I knew I was having a better time than I would have with my other friends, or even a date at the prom. In fact, most of them were there later, too.
I asked him to go to our favorite place in Salt Creek, where the creek seemed isolated. The creek bank was the perfect angle to sit there with your feet in the water. It was hot and humid that night, so we took off our shoes and socks and put our feet in the water and talked. It was awesome! Sometimes we'd just be quiet while birds drifted by on the water, or came onto the little beach, looking for food or a rest.
Like I said, I had tried everything I could think of to try to make sure that he wasn't even a little gay, but a new idea came to me while we sat there. It was safe there at the creek, isolated, and we loved it, so I was comfortable enough to be daring enough.
I told him it was so hot that I was going to soak my legs in the water. I stood up and took off my jeans. He didn't even glance over at me. I sat down and stretched my legs out into the water. I was further down the bank than him, so I knew he could easily see my white briefs, but he didn't seem to even notice. Instead, he just ignored the situation. I asked him if he was going to do it too. He didn't.
I was more sure than ever that he wasn't gay, but I wasn't done making sure.
We talked more, and soon I started talking girls. And tits. I put my hand down my shorts and got myself hard. I told him I was hard, but he didn't seem to care. I said I had to take care of it. He didn't react at all. I walked behind the big trees next to the tiny clearing and waited for a minute, playing with my hard-on, waiting to see if he'd sneak over to spy on me or something. He didn't. I had to take care of it, but I wasn't able to think of anything, and the desire wasn't there. I ended up just putting it away as it got softer.
I walked back, watching to see if he was checking me out. He looked over as I walked back, but only a quick glance.
He asked if I felt better. I said I did. I put my pants back on and asked him if he was hungry. We had polish sausages again on the way to his house.
So much for Alex being gay.
That night, though, everything changed. And I completely freaked out. It was my fault, and it was the beginning of the end.
We had a great time, as usual. Around midnight, I was in my pajamas, he was shirtless and in his jeans, like always. For some stupid reason, he wanted to try to convince me that "The Thing From Another World" was better than "Forbidden Planet." I mean, what the fuck? He had to know better, so I had to teach him better. We started wrestling.
I got him on his back and was bouncing on his chest. I rocked on him, too, making it hard for him to cry uncle.
It was all normal, but then the worst thing that could have happened, did.
I mean, here I was, sitting on the bare chest of my best friend in the world, in only my pajamas - how could I be so hard? But it almost always did get hard. I'd got hard wrestling with him before, it always seemed to happen, but this time it was different. I mean, it tingled like crazy, it was so hard it almost hurt, and I felt all funny inside.
Worse, this time, I finished. How could it fire off without at least playing with it some? I learned in health class that it was normal, especially for guys our age, and even more especially during sports and stuff, but that didn't help much.
And worst of all, he noticed.
You want to talk about humiliation! I had been trying to make sure that he wasn't gay, and then he sees me all hard and sitting on top of him, and I shoot off. I felt like a complete ass. I couldn't think of anything to say to defend myself.
I curled up on my sleeping bag and tried not to be angry or worried. He didn't even try to talk to me. Why would he? He was thinking that his best friend, his blood-brother, was a homo.
I couldn't sleep. Eventually I heard him breathing slowly and softly, like he was asleep. I left. I knew he'd hate me now. I knew that I hated myself.
The first thing I did when I got home was unplug the phone. I was worried that Alex would call when he got up, like he did the time I had that accident. He was the kind of guy who would call, even if he thought I was gay, to make sure that I was okay. I knew he would call and want to talk about it, but even the idea of talking about what had happened was horrifyingly frightening. I wanted to talk to him, but more, I wanted to hide from him. Maybe not just from him, but I definitely wanted to hide.
The next morning, Danny and Rob came over. I was happy to have someone around and something to do, but there was something wrong. As soon as we got to my room, they let me know what it was. The rumors about me and Alex were not only back, they were worse. Danny and Rob wanted to know if I was a fag. I told them no, that they knew better. They didn't seem convinced. They asked why I hung around with Alex if I wasn't. I told them that Alex was no homo. I told them how he didn't look when I changed clothes at his place. I even told them he hadn't looked when I took my jeans off to put my legs in the water. They weren't convinced. In fact, those facts only made things worse. They wanted to know why we were down at some creek together, anyway. Why I would change clothes at Alex's house, anyway.
I fumbled for answers, but I was, what do you call it? Flustered? Confused, and I just didn't know what to say or do. Everything was falling down, crashing down around me, crushing me.
They told me that I had to stop hanging around with Alex. That I was better than that, too good to spend my time with a nerdy, little, geeky fag. I should be on the football team, or baseball, or chasing cheerleaders. What was wrong with me, they wanted to know.
The only thing I could think of to do was to agree with them. It hurt, so bad, but I agreed that I was spending too much time with Alex. I was wasting my junior high years with a geek. I was better than that.
I agreed to do better. On Monday I would return to the fold, become normal again. I would sit with the right people at lunch again. I wouldn't be a fag.
They wanted to hang out at the mall and scope chicks, but I told them I had way too many chores to catch up on, that all the time I had wasted with Alex was costing me more than it was worth, how I was already being punished for doing so. They laughed. They said they would call me later. They left.
I kept wondering what I would have done if Alex had turned out to be gay, if he had failed any of my tests. I wondered if I would have stopped hanging around with him. I wondered if I would have told my friends. If I would have joined them in making fun of him.
I couldn't see myself doing that. Not to Alex. Not him.
I wondered how much I cared about him. I worried about what had happened when I was sitting on his chest in my pajamas. I wondered if I was gay.
I almost cried. I mean, I totally lost it. I punched the bed so many times I lost count. Eventually I fell asleep.
Danny and Rob came over Sunday morning and we played ball almost all day. My mom wanted me to go shopping with her so she could get me some new clothes for summer. Kevin and the guys came over that night and we went out and watched a movie. I kept thinking about Alex, and how I'd ruined the best thing I had. My friends would crack jokes about him and the other geeks all day, calling them fags and such, and I'd laugh and join in, but it hurt inside every time.
My folks found the phone unplugged Sunday night. They didn't think about asking me if I had done it, or my brother. I guess they figured it had just fallen out or something. Or they didn't want to know.
So, Monday. The last week of school. I was a nervous wreck. My other friends hinted that I had a lot of proving to do after what they were calling the Great Trey Geek Freakout. They said that I had to stay away from him and his friends. Totally.
I agreed with them. I knew Alex wouldn't want to talk to me anymore, that he thought I was a homo, so distancing myself from him was the obvious thing to do.
Alex and I had several classes together, and sat next to each other in most of them. Danny had friends in that first class with us. It was so hard when Alex sat down next to me in his usual seat and called my name. Ignoring him was the hardest thing I had ever done. I knew he wanted to talk to me then, and was surprised at that, but I knew he only wanted to talk about how gay I was. I knew him well enough that he would forgive me if we talked, but I didn't want him to suffer what would happen if we stayed friends. I knew he would become known as the class fag, and I would, too. And I would be responsible for his misery.
No, that wasn't going to happen.
It was better this way. I figured he would stop trying, then go hang out with his friends, and soon he would have someone else as his best friend, and he would be safe.
He tried to talk to me again in the next class we had together. And the one after that. In last period English, he didn't even try, and that hurt even more.
I did it so he wouldn't become the class faggot along with me.
You can see that. Right?
After school, the guys asked me to go places with them, do things together, so I did. I pretended to have a good time, but the entire time I was miserable, and thinking about Alex. I almost called him that night.
Tuesday was finals all day. He didn't talk to me. I hung around with my old friends, and they seemed to be cutting me some slack. It really hurt when they talked badly about Alex and his friends, but I had to join in.
You understand that, right?
I had to protect him. From me.
And it hurt. So very much.
The guys asked me to go places with them again, do things together again, so I did, again. Danny asked me if Alex had ever acted gay. I said no, that he had never done anything to make me thing he was a faggot. I told them again how he didn't even look when I changed at his place. Well, he looked, but he didn't look, I said.
That night I almost called Alex. I couldn't stop thinking about him. I felt horribly about ignoring him, but I knew that if we stayed friends, that he and I both would become known as the class fags. I couldn't do that to him.
Wednesday, more finals, more silence from Alex. In fact, Alex moved to a different seat in every class we had together. I pretended not to notice. It was easier that way. It hurt more, too. More laughter and talk from my old friends. I was being let in more and more. I hated it. Honest.
But only a couple more days to go, then I could go back to normal. Or so I planned. Once school was out, they wouldn't be around me all the time, and I could get alone with Alex without them knowing. The two of us could talk.
After school, the guys asked me to go places with them again, do things together again, so I did, yet again. And again, all I could really think about was how badly I had treated Alex, if he was as miserable as I was, and hoping that he wasn't.
Thursday, and things went to hell. The guys told me how Alex had said I had pulled my junk out and beat it right in front of him, and called me a fag. I didn't believe it. Later in the day, I got a chance to talk to a couple of his friends, and they said they had heard Alex say that in homeroom.
I felt my heart stop. I honestly did. I couldn't blame him, though. I know that it had to have hurt him when I stopped talking to him, but for him to tell everyone that I had done that, really hurt.
My friends told me how Alex was making up stories about me, was saying how gay I was, how I'd jerked off in front of him and I had asked him if I could suck his dick. They said that they heard that Alex had tried to get me naked at his house. I told them that someone was making shit up. My friends tried to get me to go with it, but I couldn't. I told them that the truth was more important than that. They laughed at me.
I began to wonder why I would consider them friends.
I understood why Alex didn't, and why he never would.
I realized that Alex probably hadn't ever said that I had jerked it in front of him, he had probably told them exactly the truth about the time I had gone behind the trees and jerked off, but the rumor mill had added and changed what he had honestly said. I became sure of that by the end of the last day of school.
When the last bell of the year rang, I was sick to my stomach, actually and honestly ill. I wanted to throw up when I got home, but nothing would happen. I couldn't eat dinner. My friends came over and I told them how I had to do chores, but I would catch up with them at the mall around eight or so. I didn't plan on doing so at all. I planned on being with Alex at his house. If he would forgive me.
As soon as they left, I called him. His mom answered and got him on the phone.
He sounded weird.
"I'm sorry I left."
I didn't know what else to say.
I just wanted to be friends again. I wanted my best friend back. I wanted my blood-brother back.
"I, I... didn't mean it," he said.
I knew he didn't. He would never mean to hurt me, or anyone. He had only said what he did when he had been forced to, I knew that.
There was a long silence as I tried to put what I wanted to say into words.
"I didn't care. I was... just, surprised," I said, trying to explain that I understood why he had said what he had said.
I never thought he would tell anyone that I had jerked off in the woods, and I was sure he didn't think the rumor mill would turn it into me jacking-off in front of him and asking to suck him off.
"Why'd you leave?"
I didn't understand why he was asking about that night, and I got confused. I needed to talk to him face to face.
"I, I want to talk to you. Okay? Please? Meet me at Salt Creek, at the creek?"
"Cool. See you then."
I changed into my favorite black shirt and slacks. I wanted to look good for him. It seemed important that I do. I even put on cologne.
I rode as hard and fast as I could to Salt Creek woods. His bike was already there. I went into the woods and our secret spot.
He was there, sitting with his arms around his knees, like he did when he was being bothered by something. My guts ached. Not so much over what I was doing, but over what he must be feeling. I wanted to put my arms around him and hug him until the entire world knew he was never to be bothered in any way ever again.
I shook inside. I knew what I was then. I had no doubt. Just seeing him sitting there that way made me want to hug him. I knew that I would do anything to make him feel better. I wanted to kiss him.
I swallowed hard as I sat down, just as he was, arms around knees. Not too close, but not far away.
"Rex," I finally said, wanting so badly to wrap my arms around him.
He sounded upset, and I couldn't blame him. That only made me feel worse, and made me want to hold him even more.
I didn't know what to say, and I realized that I should have thought of that on the way there. I wanted him to know that I didn't care that he had seen what had happened, that I was sorry it had, that I was sorry he probably couldn't trust me anymore. I knew he would never hate me for it. Not Alex. My friends might, and probably would, but they weren't very good friends, and I was ready to never speak to them again, especially if I could stay friends with Alex.
I started to tell him that I was sure I was gay.
"I didn't care. That you, looked. I... "
I felt like throwing up. He was sorry? For what? He should never feel sorry about anything, ever!
I wanted to tell him that I was gay, but it was so hard to do.
"Are you, gay?" I managed to ask. I was about to say, "Because, I am," but he threw a wrench into the works when he nodded. Then he made it far worse when he started crying. My heart broke, and I almost cried, too. He should never cry, ever!
Then what he had done registered. He had nodded, in the middle of my sentence. He... nodded!
My heart soared. I had never thought of myself being gay before the last few days, and then I had only thought of it as being something that would come between him and me. But now, it might be something we could share together. I had gone from a deep low to a sudden high.
"I... I think I, love you."
I hadn't meant to say it, but it had come out. And I was so very glad that it had.
He made the totally cute, little squeak he only rarely did when he was shocked, then he coughed.
"What?" he asked, his eyes so wide.
"I, think, I think I love you, X."
His eyes were so warm, so gentle, it was like they drew my own right into them. I realized how cute he was. I realized how much I felt for him. I realized that I was in love with my best friend.
I smiled despite how incredibly confused I was. He deserved only smiles.
He squeaked again. It was so adorable! He only exhaled sharply, that was all he was doing, and it was catching in his throat and making that little squeak. I loved it. And I loved him. And I wanted him to know it. But, it was so hard to do.
I wanted to hug him to me, kiss him, hold him. But how could I be gay?
"I don't know. But, I... "
I really do think I'm in love with you! I wanted to scream. But I couldn't. It was so frustrating! I actually had to hit something, so the ground took the blow.
There was only one way I knew of to know for sure.
"I, want to know, though. I got to know. I, will ... "
It was so hard to ask. Impossible.
His brown eyes filled my vision, and my heart. I knew I was gay then. There was no doubt. My insides felt as if they were sliding into my legs. I was nervous, and sweating, and shaking. I felt exactly as I always thought I would when I was about to kiss a girl for the first time. But, this was no girl. I had to know. I wanted to. I had to.
"Will you kiss me? To, find out? Just one time."
I suddenly saw one way to maybe get him to.
"I dare you."
He squeaked again. It was all I could do not to smile at it, or laugh at it. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, though. Never.
Oh, my God! Yes!
Then he started leaning toward me. My heart pounded and my breathing stopped cold. I felt my guts sort of wobble. He closed his eyes. I did, too.
It seemed like it took hours, but eventually, our lips touched. His were so soft and so warm, and so wonderful. It was all the best things on Earth all wrapped up in one wonderful, glorious, beautiful moment.
I wanted more, so I leaned into him, pushing our lips together. I never even thought of it, but my hand went to his thigh. I wanted more, and it moved further up.
I heard laughter.
We jerked apart.
"He is a fag!" Danny yelled as he appeared out of the woods.
"Fag!" Rob said, laughing, joining him suddenly.
It can't be! I thought. No! This is some nightmare! Wake up!
Suddenly my mouth hurt, badly, and I covered it with both of my hands.
It was Alex! He had hit me! He was in on it? With Danny and Rob?
"You mother-fucking ass-hole!" Alex yelled, right in my face. "I hate your fucking guts!"
He got up and ran. I couldn't move. Rob and Danny kept laughing and pointing at me. I felt the warm blood running down my chin.
"I knew it! I knew you was a faggot!" Rob said, still pointing at me.
"Man, Trey! How come? What's wrong with you?" Danny asked, not laughing anymore.
I jumped up and ran at them. I plowed into them, clothes-lining them both. Danny screamed like a girl, the wuss. Rob jumped up and I knew he was going to be the challenge.
He threw a punch that missed, even if I hadn't dodged it. I leaned back forward, bringing my left fist forward as I came, and put it right into his face. He staggered back and I took my opportunity. I hit him again, with another left, then a right. He was wobbling on his feet. Danny jumped me from behind and got an arm around my neck. I threw myself backward, onto my back and onto him. He grunted when we landed, and he let go. I rolled away.
When I stood up, they were side by side, looking very angry, and I knew what was coming.
To make a long fight short, I lost. Badly.
The last thing I remember was them holding my arms and taking turns kneeing me in the stomach. Somehow I ended up on the ground next, on my hands and knees, and they kicked me in the ass. Then they kicked me where it hurt. I fell over, then one of them kicked me in the stomach. I crossed my arms over my guts to protect them, then the other kicked me in the jewels again. Then they just kept kicking me. Anywhere. It got hard to breathe, and then I couldn't see, then I couldn't hear them laughing anymore. And then I just hurt, everywhere. Then I was cold. Then it went dark.
I woke up in the dark.
I had bugs on me, but that was nothing. I almost couldn't move. Breathing hurt, badly. Every breath hurt something in my guts. When I finally tried to get up, it hurt to move. My balls felt like they were the size of oranges, and they felt like they were buzzing. My ass hurt, too. And my stomach. And my back.
When I finally got on my feet, every step made something wiggle and slosh around inside me. I was so scared. I coughed suddenly, and sprayed blood all over. I wiped my face and my hand came away covered in blood. I got even more scared.
It took forever to walk to where I left my bike. It was ruined. The front wheel was hopelessly bent, and it looked like it had been beaten with a hammer all over the frame. I smelled gas and got sick. I threw up mostly blood, which made me even more scared. I knew I needed help, and badly. There were some cars in the parking lot. I pounded on the nearest car as soon as I hobbled my way to it.
"What the fuck is your... " the guy said as he climbed out of his car.
He looked like he was in high school, and about to kick my ass for disturbing him and his date. I saw his girl putting her shirt back on over her head.
"Holy shit! What the fuck happened to you?" he asked suddenly. "Jesus Christ!"
"Help," was all I got out.
I slid down the side of his car and tried to stay awake, but it was no use.
I saw my mom's face. She was crying. I hurt. Everywhere. I swallowed, or tried to, but only made a funny, gross kind of noise.
"Oh, God! He's awake, doctor!" she yelled.
Some asshole shined a light in my eyes and held the lids open. He started asking me questions. I tried to answer, but my voice sounded funny and I kept choking.
I was told not to try to talk yet. I was given something to drink through a straw. It was sweet and bitter at the same time, tasted awful, but it was wet. It was fucking wet!
After a while I started feeling like I might live. Mom wouldn't let go of my hand. Dad came in with two cops. They asked if I saw who had attacked me. I told them it was two older guys, maybe in high school, maybe older. They jumped me from behind while I was walking along in the woods. No, I didn't get a look at their faces. No, I didn't hear them use any names. No, I couldn't recognize them if I saw them again. No, I didn't have anything that seemed missing. No, I had no idea why I was jumped.
It went on and on. Finally they seemed satisfied and left me alone. Dad swore he would find out who it was and beat the holy hell out of them, minors, high schoolers, or adults.
I fell asleep. I woke up pretty much the next day, and was told that I'd had surgery while I was asleep. The kicking had torn some muscles, cracked some ribs, and had bruised organs. I was also told that I might lose a nut. Well, they didn't use that word, but what word they used didn't matter. It would be another day or two before they could be sure that it wouldn't go septic and have to be removed.
The missing teeth were nothing. Mom was an orthodontist, and kept telling me that in a few months there would be no way anyone would ever know I had lost those teeth.
I had nothing to do but think and watch television. And think.
I tried to remember what had happened, but all I remembered was sitting down to talk to Alex, then having to fight Danny and Rob. I couldn't remember exactly why. Or what had happened between sitting down and the fight. I didn't tell anyone about the real fight, or who else had been there. Even though he had been in on their plan, I couldn't be mad at him. He probably just needed to know if I was really gay.
And I remembered that fact. And it bothered me. I didn't understand how I could be gay. Or why I had to like Alex like that. It was confusing, frightening, horrifying.
My head was messed up for days. I was told that I could keep both of my balls. What a relief! Then I was told I was going home the next day.
Home. I had hardly spent any time there the last year. I felt weird there. I had to lay around and do nothing. It was boring.
I wanted to call Alex. I wanted to know what he knew, and to ask him if he really hated me now. He had never seemed the type to hate someone just because they were gay, but there was no doubting that he had been there with Rob and Danny, and that he hadn't called me or come over. He had to know what had happened to me, right?
It took me two days, but I finally called. When the recorded voice said that the number I had dialed had been disconnected, I was surprised. A lot. I dialed it again and got the same message. I felt as low as I ever had. It was like I had lost my best friend all over again. He hated me so much that he had gotten his parents to change their phone number so that I couldn't call him.
I didn't want Alex to hate me. I wondered why I cared what he thought of me. He had worked with Rob and Danny to find out that I was gay, so why should I give a damn about him? Alex had to have led them there. Right?
I mean, why else would they have been there, I kept thinking.
A week went by. No one called, no one came by. It sucked. Big time. I really didn't care if any of my friends called, I didn't want them as friends anymore, anyway. They weren't worthy of me. I might be gay, but they were pathetic.
Only losing Alex hurt. Now he knew I was gay, and he hated me.
I stopped caring if I got better or not. It didn't matter. But after a couple of days, I was expected to get out and start getting some fresh air and exercise. I walked around the block, then went back home. No one had called or come over, so I knew that I didn't have any real friends anymore. I realized that I didn't actually ever have any real friends. Except for one. And it seemed that I had ruined that friendship. Even my blood-brother couldn't put up with a fag for a friend.
Day after day, it ate at me. I thought of almost nothing else. As the days went by, I became less and less sure that Alex would have done that with Rob and Danny. It didn't seem possible, and was nothing like the Alex I had known.
I had to know why. If he had changed his phone number, then there was only one way to talk to him. It was rainy and hot on the day I decided to see him. I got on my new bike and rode the same, old, familiar route. But now it seemed strange and even frightening.
There was a Century Twenty-One sign in the front yard. I felt my guts curdle. The grass needed mowed. No one answered the door. I went around to the back and looked into Alex's bedroom window. His room was completely empty.
Suddenly, so was I.
I stared through the window, not believing my eyes. I don't know why, but I had to get in there. I knew how to wiggle his window so that the latch unlocked, I had seen him do it enough times when we were sneaking back in late at night or early in the morning. It felt wrong to do it all alone, but I needed in there.
It took me a while, but I opened the window and climbed into the room I had actually lived in more than any other room in my life. I don't mean lived, as in survived, I mean lived, as in really, lived.
God it hurt. Seeing the room all empty like that, it felt like the very sight of it emptied me. I had never seen it without his bed, his desk, his synthesizer, his N.A.S.A. and movie posters, his clutter - him.
The room seemed to make fun of me. It was so empty. Hollow. Like me.
I climbed back outside. We had spent almost as much time together in the little wooden shed in the back yard. He had made it into a sort of clubhouse, and he and his friends spent a lot of time there. The two of us, too. It was where we had cut our palms and become blood-brothers, where we had sometimes camped out overnight, and where we had just sat and done and said nothing, sometimes reading, for hours.
And it was where we had found the loose board behind the shelves and made it into a secret compartment. I walked toward it, feeling like I should set it on fire with myself inside it. I opened the door and then closed it behind me. All the things were gone, even the junk that we had put on the little shelves we had built. I didn't expect anything when I opened the little secret compartment, but there was something in it. The book he had given me to read in seventh grade. I had accidentally left it behind that last night at his place. I had left it in his room.
Now he had left it behind. On purpose.
He had left me behind.
As I sat there in the empty clubhouse, holding that book, thinking over that horrible day at the creek, it came to me.
It was like watching a movie of it. Scene by scene. Word by word. It seemed strange at first, and I wasn't sure it was all real, but in seconds, it all seemed perfectly clear.
I saw him sitting there on the bank, holding his knees, looking worried or hurt. I felt again those powerful emotions, and I remembered what I had realized about myself because of them. We had talked some, then I had started to tell him that I was pretty sure that I was gay, and that I really liked him.
He had nodded when I was half way through. He had nodded when he thought I was only going to ask him if hewas gay!
I remembered it all.
Alex admitting that he was gay, me asking for a kiss to see if I really was, him leaning to kiss me, us kissing. Then the laughter. Danny and Rob laughing at us. Not just me, not just Alex, us.
And Alex hitting me.
Then fighting with Rob and Danny. Losing. Being kicked until I couldn't breathe. Waking up in the dark. The poor guy I interrupted from getting some action.
It all made sense. Alex hitting me, running away, calling me a mother-fucker, that he hated my guts.
It all started to make absolute sense.
It became impossible to breathe. I shook all over.
I had been ignoring him for days, then had called him to meet at the woods. He didn't know why I had actually been ignoring him, or why I had called him and wanted to meet.
He had thought that I had believed the rumors that he was gay, and that I had ignored him because of them. He hadn't been in with Danny and Rob, he had thought that I was. He had thought I had brought them, and that I had known they were watching, waiting. He hadn't known that I was gay, he had thought I had helped Danny and Rob trick him into revealing that he was.
That was why he had hit me, why he had said what he had to me. Why he had ran. Why he hated me. Why he had never called or come over. Why he had left me behind.
He thought I hated him for being gay.
The irony of it hurt, and so did the fact that I would never have understood that irony if it weren't for Alex.
For the first time in my life, I cried.
So, I once had a best friend.
More than a best friend, a blood-brother.
He didn't die, I don't think, I don't know, but he's gone.
He left me behind.
* * *