True, Tragic and Unnecessary Gay Youth Suicide Stories......................
Days of Silence
I had watched him try out more looks, more styles, trying to figure out a way to fit in over the last four years, that I was seriously beginning to wonder what happened to the Lucas I knew back before I stopped being his friend and started being… scared.
Normally I would have gone with selfish there, but the reality of it is, that from that moment in the seventh grade when I realized that I had been caught, I was scared, and in the four years since that afternoon in his bedroom, I was just as scared, maybe even more so. It may have taken me the last four years to figure out that the real reason that I hadn’t said two words to the guy who had been my best friend since we had started school was that I was scared, but the truth is that I knew now, and I was becoming more and more disgusted with myself with every lie or lame excuse I made up to explain away the one relationship that had meant the most to me in all of my sixteen years.
It was easy to point at Lucas, to place the blame on him, but the truth was, as much as I told myself this was his fault, I was the one who screwed up. I was the one who had made himself unavailable, too busy to spend any time with him, let alone talk to him. I was the one who wouldn’t take his phone calls and wouldn’t come to the door. I started avoiding any place he might be, and I found ways to occupy my time that didn’t involve my former best friend. It wasn’t that I didn’t want him around, that I didn’t enjoy every second of every minute I spent with him, but I was afraid. Afraid of what it meant, afraid of how I felt. Afraid of what it made me, and that fear provoked me to do the only thing I thought would stop me from feeling like I was.
Total and complete segregation from any and all things Lucas Ridgemont. I cut him off, and in turn, cut myself off, from the one person that had always accepted me for who I was with no stipulations and no expectations. I had my faults, things I lacked, and I knew it, but Lucas never cared. It didn’t matter to him that there were things about me and my life that were complicated, he always treated me like everyone else, except in a way, I was even more special.
Not that I had any right at all to wonder what was going on with Lucas, I had been the one that pushed him away, the one that put up the gigantic wall that not even the best of the best could scale, but I did. Wonder that is. I did care, and I had watched the Lucas I’d known and loved disappear, slowly being replaced with different shells of different people.
After it first happened, while he was committed to trying to find a way to talk to me, he was still the same smart and resourceful Lucas I had always known with his sandy blond hair and investigating green eyes, but from that time until this very moment as he sat with his back against the tall shade tree in the park, there had been some dramatic transformations.
It was like each year he tried out some new personality and by the end of the school year he was exhausted, recuperating over summer break and reinventing himself, and then reappearing every fall at the beginning of the school year as someone new. It seemed to work for him too, if what he was going for was to be alone. It took most people a few weeks to realize that it was the same Lucas, and usually it was only his name that alerted them, being called out in the beginning of each class as attendance was taken.
I don’t want to say that I recreated myself, but in a way, that’s exactly what I did that afternoon as I walked out of his bedroom. I acted like it never happened, but worse than that; I acted like he didn’t exist. I had to. If he didn’t exist then I couldn’t love him, kiss him, and if that never happened, then maybe… just maybe, I couldn’t be gay either.
The first summer before the eighth grade, it wasn’t as drastic, but as the years went on, I think he became more desperate and the way he looked now, with his long strands of black hair mostly covering his face, separating him from everyone, was evidence of that. At first, he tried getting involved in the drama club. He was in every school play that year and he was really good too. I’m pretty sure he thinks I didn’t care, but as nervous as I felt when my class fumbled its’ way into the school auditorium to watch each play, I was excited too. It was like I was allowed to be watching his every move, I was supposed to be looking at him and as torturous as that was for me, I relished in it. Even if it only was for an hour at a time, it was an hour I was allowed to look, I was supposed to look.
Ninth grade it was the swim team. His hair grew a bit longer and all the time spent in the pool and the chlorine had turned it from a sandy blond to a lighter blond, like it would naturally lighten in the summer sun. I didn’t go to one swim meet all year. Lucas in a Speedo, as much as I imagined that over and over, was something I didn’t allow myself the pleasure of actually seeing up close.
The next year, tenth grade, he joined the marching band. He had this ability to pick up everything he tried so quickly and then excel at it. It was almost unreal to me, and while he would spend hours trying to get me caught up to his level of ability, not because he felt sorry for me or thought that I was dumb, but because that way we could do whatever it was together, I was just proud that he was my best friend.
He played the clarinet, and while I got some sort of weird comfort from knowing he was sitting in the stands, or marching on the same field I played on, I never got to see him perform, except for the National Anthem at the start of every football game, but I’ll never forget what he looked like as his red lips wrapped gently but purposefully around the reed of that clarinet or the way they looked so plump, almost puffy, when he was through playing. That year all his long yellow locks had been traded for a short spiky hair-do, but that was only if you ever got to see his hair out from underneath the hat he continuously had on.
I almost didn’t recognize him today though, his dark gray hood pulled over his head, with his headphones on as he drank from a bottle of water. He had a skateboard next to him, lying upside down on the green grass of the park we were in, but it was the picture on the deck that caught my eye as I walked toward him to retrieve our basketball which had rolled right up to where his feet were planted firmly on the ground as his knees were pulled up in front of his chest.
I didn’t know much about skating, but his board definitely caught my eye, with its’ intricate design. It didn’t have much color to it, mostly black and white, but there was what appeared to be a red heart with a crack running down the center of it. Underneath the broken heart it simply said, MYSTERY. I’m sure it was my subconscious that was drawn to it, but when I finally managed to pull my eyes away from the simple picture that had seemingly captivated me for the short amount of time it took me to jog over from the court to where he was sitting and locate the ball, I decided I better say something, apologize for intruding on his space as I moved closer.
“Hey man, sorry about that,” I said as I made an indication toward the ball that still sat at his feet. “Nice board,” I added as I bent down to grab the ball.
He hadn’t said anything and I was starting to wonder if he had even heard me with his headphones on, but when his eyes finally met mine through the curtain of black hair they were hiding behind, I gasped out loud. I was hoping he hadn’t heard that though, as I looked directly into his eyes for the first time in four years.
They were the same deep, brooding emerald green eyes I had casually walked away from that afternoon and then methodically ran from for the next four years… until today. He didn’t say anything in return but the look he was giving me said plenty.
“Justin, come on man, we’re waiting on you,” I heard one of the guys yell from the court where they were waiting for my return. I looked over at the guys and then back at Lucas, his eyes telling me not to even think about staying there with him, daring me to try, before I looked back at the guys again, but I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t walk away again, not this time.
I just threw the ball back in the direction of the court and turned back around, taking a seat on the ground in front of him and then I waited. And waited, and waited. I don’t know how long we sat there like that, across from one another, only silence between us, but eventually I realized the sun had set and it was almost dark. I almost forgot what it was I was waiting for a few times till he would glare in my direction with those steely green eyes. It had been at least three hours without so much as a word between us when I finally stood up to leave.
I had to be home for dinner or else I would be explaining why I didn’t call and let my mom know I wasn’t coming, and besides, it was more than a little frustrating sitting across from someone I had cared so much about for three hours and having him not say a word to me. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything to him either, but I have a feeling it was the overpowering sense of guilt I felt every time I looked into his eyes, the ones that were challenging me to give him a worthy explanation for my behavior over the past four years, and the truth was, I didn’t have one.
The thought occurred to me on my walk home from the park that I had no right being frustrated with him for ignoring my existence for three hours that afternoon, even though he could see plain as day that I was sitting right in front of him, but then again, I was the master of evading and ignoring what was right in front of my face. I had hid and ignored him for four years and I still didn’t know what made me want to sit down and maybe, I don’t know, talk to him today, but I did. Maybe it was the guilt, maybe it was the fact that he had clearly seen me, and I knew he knew it was me, so I couldn’t just walk away again, instead, I sat down.
It was like that afternoon, when I had laid down next to him on the floor in his bedroom where we were about to watch a movie, our sides touching innocently as our bellies pressed into the carpeted floor. We had propped our chins up on our hands and our elbows nestled against each others’ and we were laughing about something that had happened when I looked over at his smiling face. I knew he was about the best, most loyal person I knew, but more than that, lately I had been realizing that his crisp, green eyes were melting my inhibitions a little more each time I found myself gazing into them absent mindedly.
We were laughing and I ended up shoving him, causing him to roll over and when he continued to laugh at me, all in fun of course, I decided that some payback was necessary right before I attacked him, wrestling and rolling over one another until my size and strength won out and I had pinned his smaller body beneath mine. We panted breathlessly from the struggle and when he realized he was stuck, his hands pinned down to the ground by my own as I sat royally on his abdomen, he relented.
My eyes found his as I celebrated my victory momentarily before I lost myself in the deep green eyes that seemed to be an open book to his soul. I felt comfort, love, acceptance, each time I looked into them and that feeling grew with intensity each time. This time though, I felt the corners of my mouth turn up a little as he grinned at me with his head cocked to the side, wondering what I would do with my new found status.
“Whatever you’re gonna do, just do it Justin,” he pleaded, probably in an effort to get me off of his chest sooner rather than later.
So, I did. I was fully prepared to attack again with some form of tickling or even a wet willy, anything to have some form of contact with his body, but in the end my brain, or more likely my heart, took over and I kissed him. Just softly on his red lips that were slightly parted to ease his breathing, just for a brief moment in time, as the world stopped around us, before I pulled away from him. He didn’t push me away, he didn’t scream at me or get angry, he just looked at me smiling gently, my reflection shining back at me in his crystal clear eyes.
I was scared. Confused and scared, and I didn’t even have the ability to do something lame like threaten him with bodily harm, or offer to do his chores or his homework for the rest of my life in exchange for his silence. No, instead I ran. I ran and hid for four years, until today, when I couldn’t bring myself to run anymore. The trouble was, now that I was ready to face what I was, he hated me; my very existence had changed him into someone who hid from everyone or scared them into shying away from him.
His eyes were cold and that same soul I used to see in them and loved was now hardened and protected by the shell he had created this year. I wondered as I walked home in the cool evening air if he chose a more unapproachable look this year, a more drastic statement, for a reason. I liked it though, the way his raven black hair contrasted his creamy skin, and the way the jade pools that were his eyes seemed to flawlessly accompany the ensemble he had going. The black eyeliner that you could only see if he actually looked at you and the black nail polish that donned his fingertips were just as shiny as the pencil sized plugs he had in his earlobes.
I remembered the way the sun shone off the ring he had pierced through his bottom lip as I studied this persona he had become. You can see a lot of things without even looking sometimes, and I had spent three hours looking, really looking, this afternoon. What I saw on the outside of Lucas Ridgemont was contrary to the Lucas I had known so many years before, but I also saw the pain, the anger, the reality that he still had not forgiven me for abandoning him that afternoon, and as much as he tried to scare everyone away so no one could see it, so he couldn’t be hurt again, I stared it in the face for an afternoon.
I think that scared him more though, the thought that I was making an effort finally and that he didn’t know why. Why I all of a sudden cared what happened to Lucas and if he somehow found a way to forgive me, to let me into his life again, what guarantee did he have that I wouldn’t run out on him again, crushing the miniscule piece of his spirit that remained protected by this hardened exterior. The truth was he had no way of knowing, and I decided that his silence and his glares that clearly told me not to even think about it, not to even try, were his strongest defense.
It wasn’t until the next weekend when I was at the park again with the guys that I saw Lucas. I had looked for him at school, and I didn’t see him at all on Monday or Tuesday and by Wednesday I was beginning to get the feeling that he was hiding from me, although as I thought back over the last few months, I couldn’t remember a time when I had seen him. That thought was disconcerting enough to make me actually wonder if he even attended the school anymore, and by Friday I had almost given up any notion I had that I would ever find him at school.
I suppose I could go knock on his front door and act like the past four years hadn’t happened, I mean, he only lived in the house behind ours, but that didn’t seem like a good plan either. My dad and Lucas’ had even installed a gate between the two backyards so that we wouldn’t have to go all the way around the block each time we wanted to go over to the others house or when it was time to go home all we had to do was walk through the gate.
But as I saw him gliding effortlessly along that April afternoon through the park, his shirt tucked into the back of his pants flowing behind him allowing the warm sun to glimmer off his skin, it occurred to me that he was stunning. His body was lean, not that you could tell under all the clothes he normally wore, but today the sun was warm enough to have coaxed him into sharing that eye catching sight with me. His hair feathered in the wind as I watched him, wondering how he could even see where he was going from behind all that hair, and what it would feel like to have that bare chest against mine.
I wanted to shout out to him, and I had some fantasy in my mind that he would hear me calling out to him, ride up and smile at me, and all the pain of the last four years would just melt away with the power of a single kiss, like the one that had caused all of this to begin with. It was like everything would have come full circle then, but I didn’t call out to him, he didn’t ride over to me, and we definitely didn’t kiss each other. No, instead I stared openly at him, and he ignored my existence as usual.
We played our game, running up and down the basketball court more times than I cared to count, until the deep orange sun was hanging low in the sky. I was headed home, walking along and enjoying the way the cool spring breeze felt against my tacky skin before I stopped at the drinking fountain for a drink. I saw it out of the corner of my eye first, before my curiosity won out and I lifted my head licking the remaining drops of water from my lips, recognizing his form folded up underneath the same tree we had sat beneath the previous weekend.
I turned, heading in the opposite direction of home, all the time wondering why I was going to put myself through this again, until I found myself standing in front of him again. He didn’t notice me with his eyes closed, his head leaning back against the tree, and I watched him, his foot tapping only slightly to the beat of whatever song he was listening to. I decided not to interrupt him, he looked so serene there, and that appealed to me in a way so much greater than the looks I had received the last weekend.
It seemed like at times he wanted me to believe he felt nothing about me, just a hollow, vacant place remaining where he used to store his emotions regarding me, and at other times he wanted me to know he was so angry, hurting still to this day so much that he hated me and what I had done to him. I decided I preferred the latter since at least he was feeling something.
He was more than a little startled when he finally did open his eyes and found me sitting there patiently in front of him before the slightest look of confusion was hidden, masked by the steely glare he had perfected. There was the brief moment where he opened his mouth as if he was going to say something to me, probably something equivalent to ‘fuck off and die’; before he snapped it shut again with determination. Once again we sat there, me watching him, trying to find even the tiniest piece of the Lucas that I had once loved and grab onto it again and never let go, and him, fighting for his life, self defense to the greatest degree.
Just as it had the week before, the time came where I had to stand up and leave to go home. I hated that I wasn’t clever enough to have asked my mom if I could skip dinner tonight in case I ran into him again, but I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I hated walking away from him again. He almost smirked, in a gloating manner, when he saw me fidgeting, trying to tell myself that I had to leave and that I was at least trying, even if he refused to talk to me, but I felt the guilt each time I actually stood up and walked away.
“I have to go,” I stated clearly, even though I really wanted to sit here for as long as it took, the battle of wills raging on. “Maybe I’ll see you at school,” I offered as I stood up. He didn’t acknowledge me or my previous statement and I was hurting now. It was frustration at first, and then maybe an acceptance or understanding on some level, but as time went on, it just hurt. “Same time next week?” I asked pulling out the one trump card I had left with a smirk on my face that told him I was only half joking, and then I walked home, alone.
By the next weekend I had learned through a sheer determination, that Lucas did in fact still attend the same school as I did, even though I never saw him. I had started looking for him in places I thought he might be, places he could hide. I checked the various groups; the skater kids, the Goths, the library, the auditorium, and even the band director’s office, anywhere I thought he might be, but I didn’t see him all week. I had been asking people too which earned me some disconcerted and confused looks, I guess that was to be expected though, since for the last four years I had told people to mind their own business or worse whenever they asked me about what had went down between us.
But this Saturday afternoon, I decided that I needed to step up my game a little. I arrived at the park around ten that morning, and I passed the basketball courts. The guys asked me to play, they assumed I was there for that like every other Saturday, but today I declined. They were confused, they probably thought I was losing my mind when I walked over to the same tree we had sat beneath the last two weekends and sat down.
I left his spot against the tree untouched, and instead, took my regular spot facing him, only since he wasn’t there, I was left to stare at the tree. I sat there, keeping my vigil for hours that afternoon until I heard it, the unmistakable sound of the wheels on the sidewalk. I forced myself not to turn around, no matter how badly I wanted to see the look on his face, but when the wheels stopped just behind me where the grass met the pavement I smiled, only for a second, but I smiled.
Not to be outdone, he walked over and tossed his board down on the grass and sat down, leaning back against the tree occupying his normal spot. His eyes caught mine for just a second, as hard as he was trying to pretend I wasn’t there, before he looked away. I watched him and the little nuances that made him Lucas, and I realized that there are some things you can’t stifle, no matter how hard you try.
I knew that it was presumptuous of me to even think that he might actually say something to me, even if it was to tell me to go to hell, or to inform me of just how much of a selfish coward I am, let alone ever be able to forgive me or consider us friends again, but I had to try. I needed something from him, and I knew my actions those four years ago had hurt him, confused him, and seemingly almost destroyed the Lucas I had known and loved.
Spring was approaching its’ end, and it was warmer this afternoon than it had been in a long time. The warm breeze blew, circling around us in an effort to remind us that summer was indeed on its’ way. I wondered as I sat there that afternoon, where he spent most of his time, what did he do with his days and nights, and where was he coming from like clockwork every Saturday afternoon before he sat beneath this same tree.
I had no right to ask, and I was well aware that if I did, he simply wouldn’t respond so I opted not to upset him any further. He would talk to me when he was ready and not a moment sooner and besides I was curiously waiting to see how he would react when I didn’t get up and leave until he did. I made sure to let my mom know that I would be gone all day and not to expect me for dinner.
So I sat there, since ten that morning all alone until he arrived and sat down across from me silently. He seemed to anxiously be waiting for the sun to dip down far enough and for me to stand up and leave him again like I had the past two Saturdays, but that wasn’t going to happen today. I wondered instead, just how long we would sit here, as it grew darker and darker until the night sky was as black as his hair.
It was odd, after our eyes adjusted to the darkness, how much we could still really see sitting under the stars. The subtle shadows created from the soft moonlight that cast down on his face were magnificent. We sat there, and it took every fiber of my being not to glance down at my watch. If I had I would have realized that I had been sitting there for almost twelve hours now and it was no wonder that when he finally stood up, reluctantly having to be the one making the move to leave this time, that I almost fell down as I tried to stand up also.
His eyes widened a bit, maybe out of shock, maybe out of curiosity, perhaps even worry, I hoped it was worry, but he made no move to help me as I tried to steady myself. Once I was stable and standing on my own without the aid of the tree trunk I had just spent all day with, he walked toward the pavement, skateboard in hand. I followed silently.
When we made it to the sidewalk I was sure he would drop his board and take off, but he didn’t, instead he continued to walk just a step ahead of me with his board tucked under his arm. We moved like this, silently through the night in the direction of our houses, and as we entered our neighborhood I was more than a little surprised when he headed down my street instead of walking one more street to his own, but I followed him still, my footsteps telling him I was still behind him.
Two things occurred to me as we approached the front of my house that night. He was making sure I made it home safely, and I wondered to myself when the last time he had seen this side of my house was as I surveyed the front lawn I was supposed to mow tomorrow. When he stopped, I stopped, and I heard him sigh, probably frustrated my unwillingness to give up, and by his inability not to care about me, as much as he tried.
I shivered slightly in the cool night air, not wanting him to leave, but knowing it was inevitable at the same time. Finally after what I’m sure was only a minute or two, even though it felt like an eternity of turbulence in my mind he started to take a step toward my back gate. I assumed he thought he could just go through the gate our dads had put up all those years ago and get home as quickly as possible, helping this night come to an end.
“Wait Luke,” I said as I reached out and grabbed his arm to stop him. That earned me an icy glare as he shook my hand off his arm, like my touch was painful to him physically. Maybe that was the cause, or maybe it was how I had called him Luke like I always had while he insisted everyone else call him Lucas.
“Sorry,” I sighed, shoving my hands in my pockets in an attempt to show him I wouldn’t try and touch him again. “The gate’s blocked, it has been for years.” I admitted. “I’ll move the stuff tomorrow,” I offered, too little, too late. He dropped his board on the sidewalk, his foot landing atop it as he perched, ready for take off.
“Luke, wait,” I almost begged, having so much to say and knowing now was not the time for it, “thanks… for not leaving me back there.” I watched him until he disappeared around the corner before I went inside, exhausted and famished.
The next morning I was up bright and early mowing the front lawn, and after I finished, I went into the back yard and made good on my promise to Luke. I cleared away all the stuff I had managed to pile in front of the gate that we had once used several times a day. Once I was able to, I opened the gate, peering into his backyard feeling altogether awkward about doing that since it had been four years since I had seen it last.
I didn’t see Lucas that morning as I walked away finally, leaving the gate standing wide open. He was sure to see that though, and would know that I had done what I said I would. Later that afternoon as I was sitting in the living room watching TV I saw some movement in the back yard from the corner of my eye and when I looked over to see what was going on, I saw him.
He was standing at the gate, almost refusing to step through it, as he surveyed my backyard again for the first time in a long time before his eyes settled on mine. His expression was unreadable as he looked at me through the large window, and after a few moments he reached out and grabbed the top of the gate, pulling it shut tightly.
I didn’t see Lucas all week again, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying either. I had been all over that school and hadn’t found him or even anyone who could tell me where he might be, but I was not going to give up. It’s not like I didn’t know where he lived, and I knew that he at least had to go home at some point.
I wondered if he would ever speak to me again, and if he did, what would his first words be after so many years of silence. Granted, those years of silence and solitude were what I had wanted, but now I wanted more. I wanted to apologize, I wanted him to understand that as cliché as it sounded, it wasn’t him, it was me. I wanted him to know that I never meant to hurt him, or to make him feel like he had to be someone he wasn’t. I wanted… forgiveness, assurance that I hadn’t driven the Lucas I once knew and loved away forever.
Maybe that sounds selfish, and it probably is. In a way, it sort of let me off the hook, knowing that I wasn’t to blame for all of his recreations. The reality was though, that I was. I was responsible for it all. I was the scared one, the one who was too selfish and too afraid, wrapped up in his own feelings to be honest. I couldn’t accept that I had feelings like that for another boy, let alone admit to myself and accept that I was gay, how then would I be able to make him understand and not hate me.
Tomorrow was his birthday, I never forgot it, April 27th, and I secretly wished him a happy birthday every year since the last one we celebrated as best friends. Guys tend to quit having birthday parties as they get older in exchange for hanging out with friends or going somewhere to celebrate, and I had no idea what he had planned for his birthday, but I wasn’t about to miss another one.
I had been to the mall, searching for a gift to give him for his birthday, but I quickly realized that I had absolutely no idea what to get him. He had changed so much over the last four years, that I didn’t have a clue what would make a good gift. I refused to settle for something cheap or corny like a CD or a t-shirt, although I was certain I could find something like that he could enjoy, if he would even accept the gift from me at all, but those things, those irrelevant objects that would only reflect the Lucas I had stared at the past three Saturdays weren’t acceptable to me, in fact, they were almost hurtful on some level.
. . . . . . . . .
I was sitting there on the blanket I had laid down on the ground, the gate held open with a small brick I found lying around the flowerbed in our backyard. The blanket was equally in between both of our yards, and I sat on my side trying not to impose on his space as I waited. I had no idea what his plans were, or if he even planned on coming home at all tonight, but I was fully prepared to sit out there all night if that’s what it took.
At some point, while I was scrunching down further into my jacket in an attempt to keep warm, I saw his mom stick her head out the back door. She flashed me a small, understanding smile when she saw me before she retreated back into the warmth of the house, closing the door and leaving the porch light on for me. It was a clear night and the stars that were overhead twinkled in a way that was calming as I sat there waiting for Lucas.
I glanced over to my left where the picnic basket I had packed with a small birthday cake and some hot chocolate was still waiting. I decided not to put it all out there at once. I was worried he would think I was trying to buy his forgiveness or guilt him into it, so I just had the small, white square box with the red bow on top placed in front of me and hopefully he would walk out and sit down, and maybe even open it.
At around eleven thirty the back porch light shut off and I was beginning to worry. Only a minute later I saw the light flicker on upstairs in his room and his silhouette stride across the room. I only allowed myself to gaze longingly for just a minute before I forced myself to give him some privacy. I wondered to myself if he even knew I was sitting here before allowing myself one more glance at the illuminated window.
He was looking down at me through the window as he held the shades back just enough and I found that icy glare I had become so familiar with over the past three weeks when my eyes met his. I looked down again at the box, wishing, hoping that he would come down and sit down with me and I watched dejectedly when I looked up again to find him walking back across his room before I watched the room go dark. I had known it was a possibility, more than a possibility; it was likely, that he would not come and find me, but I tried to think positively.
Another ten minutes passed before I saw the back porch light come on again. It was the longest ten minutes of my life and when he first stepped through the door pulling his own jacket on, I was relieved, but then I quickly decided as he stood there, silent in the night, that maybe he wasn’t going to come over, maybe he was gonna slam the gate in my face instead. I really didn’t know, and any relief I felt when I saw the porch light turn on again or the relief I felt when I saw his face appear out from behind the door was quickly swallowed again by more worry, fear, and anger.
I was angry at myself for ever letting it get this far, this out of hand. That has to be the understatement of the century; I scolded myself, as I focused again on the box in front of me. It was eleven forty-five when I finally saw his feet as he stood in front of the blanket, deciding if he should sit down or tell me to just give it up. Just get over it, realize that he was never going to forgive me or talk to me, never listen to my meager explanation, my poor excuse for the years of heartache, pain, and destruction I had subjected him to.
I wasn’t sure if his sigh of pity masked by annoyance or my sigh of true pain and helplessness was more noticeable, but I suddenly didn’t care when I saw him sit down across from me. He didn’t say anything at first, probably waiting for me to say something, to explain just what the hell I thought I was doing, but I didn’t, the words wouldn’t come from me, not for another fifteen minutes at least.
Finally, after gently fingering the red bow on top of the box, I held it out for him. Reluctantly, he took it from where it sat on my open palm, an offering from me, and he acted like he was accepting something tainted. I looked up and found his eyes focused on mine instead of the small box he now held, questioning me. I only allowed myself to plead with him silently, to understand, to open the box, to give me a chance.
“I can’t believe you remembered,” he said so softly I almost didn’t hear him. I wanted to scream out that I hadn’t ever forgotten, that I had wished him a year of happiness and strength each birthday I missed, that it almost killed me not to be able to tell him how much I cared for the past four years, but I didn’t. He had come outside and sat down and accepted a gift from me and even spoken, although I was still wondering if his words were meant for me or for himself.
Carefully, as if opening the box he held could cause him some harm, he removed the lid. Inside he found a bracelet with a black leather band. The silver face was engraved, etched in black it simply said, TRUTH. He looked up at me confused but it was clear to me that I was offering to give him the truth, if he wanted it, and I would, if he would listen. He lifted the bracelet from where it sat atop a piece of white cotton shaped conveniently to fill the box just to the edges and examined it more closely.
He seemed to like the style, or at least I thought so, when I noticed the outer edges of his lips curl up, but that lasted only a second before he remembered where he was. I reached out and gently took it from him, opening the silver clasp that connected the smooth black leather ends before I held it up in a way that made it clear I was offering to put it on him. Eventually he held out his left arm so I could fasten it around his wrist, making sure the word would be upright and clear to him. It fit like a band more than a bracelet as it clung to his skin and left no room to dangle or turn around his wrist.
“What does it mean?” he asked after he spent another minute looking at it, confused by the relevancy of the word somehow.
I reached over and grabbed the picnic basket out from behind my side of the fence and he regarded it curiously before I pulled out the cake. It was simple and small, round with white frosting and a black border around the top edge. In the middle I had asked the woman at the bakery to write the word LOVE in red icing and as I placed it in front of him, he seemed frustrated. He looked to me for an explanation, but I couldn’t say anything yet, not for another… ten minutes I realized, as I glanced down at my watch. He let out an exasperated breath before he spoke again.
“Love?” he asked questioningly. “What, you think you… love me?” he asked in disbelief, trying to figure out what was going on, and my lack of ability to speak all of a sudden was quite frankly beginning to piss him off after the four weeks of almost stalker like behavior that had preceded tonight.
“Bullshit! You don’t even know me anymore,” he said harshly and I flinched because, in a way, he was right. “What the fuck Justin? I mean we were best friends, best friends, and then you fucking kiss me, and then… you disappear out of my life like nothing fucking happened, and now… now you want me to believe you love me?”
I nodded, it was all true, every stinging word he had just said. This wasn’t going well, but then again he was talking to me, even if it was the harsh reality of our situation being provoked out of him by frustration. I wanted so badly to tell him just how I felt, how sorry I was for letting my fear and hesitation deprive us both of the best friendship I had ever known.
I had… eight more minutes... eight more minutes of silence before I could finally give him the truth I had just offered him. My eyes pleaded with his, begging for him to be patient with me, to just give me a chance, to wait eight more minutes before telling me to fuck off for good, and I desperately hoped that after I did tell him the truth, the real reason why I abandoned him and our friendship, that he would be able to accept that truth and not hate me or be disgusted with me.
I hoped he could love me too, like I have loved him since we were twelve.
“I mean, what’s your deal anyway?” he demanded. “First you run off, and then you won’t talk to me and then you pretend I don’t even exist, and then after four years, four years Justin, you just show up out of nowhere and expect me to forgive you. What the hell is that?”
Okay so he was upset. That was to be expected, and totally understandable, he was more than justified in his reaction, and it was becoming harder and harder not to tell him right this minute what was going on, but I had to wait… six more minutes. I made a promise to myself and I was going to do this, and hopefully six minutes from now Lucas would understand that.
“Whatever. Why don’t you just leave me alone then?” he asked before answering for me. “Oh right, because you love me,” he said sarcastically as he rolled his eyes. I flinched again, he wasn’t holding back was he?
He stared off into the night, probably wondering why he even came out here in the first place, and I reached up, pointing into the sky at a star. We spent lots of nights looking at the stars together, camping out in the backyard, sure we were going to get to see them up close one day, and secretly wishing on them too, or at least I was. He looked confused, but willingly took the distraction from trying to figure out why I was being so obstinate currently.
I used to wish that we would be friends forever, as hard as it is to imagine what forever is when you’re twelve, that I would always have him in my life, that I could love him forever and never be without him. I found out soon enough though, that I was stuck in a broken life and I couldn’t wish it away. My only escape was hiding out, running from him and myself ultimately.
I moved the cake out of the way, placing it back in the basket for the moment before I retrieved a card I had made him. It was simple, but I hoped it would prove that I had noticed things about him and how they applied to me and my own life as I sat across from him all those afternoons. It was made of black construction paper and I had glued a red heart, just like the one on his skateboard with the crack running down the center, on the front.
On one side of the heart it said Luke and on the other side of the crack it said Justin, but instead of the word MYSTERY, like his skateboard said, it said TRUTH. I handed him the card and he shrugged taking it from me, like maybe it had some answers for him since I was being less than forthcoming currently. I borrowed some song lyrics and used them inside the card since they fit my feelings perfectly. He thumbed the card open and read.
All the days collided
One less perfect than the next
I was stuck inside someone else's life and always second best
Oh, I love you now, cause now I realize
That it's safe outside to come alive in my identity
So if you're listening
There's so much more to me you haven't seen
Living in the shadow
Of someone else's dream
Trying to find a hand to hold but every touch felt cold to me
I'm living in a new day
I'm living it for me
And now that I am wide awake
Yeah I can finally see
My chains are finally free
I loved you,
When his eyes managed to find mine, they were wide with possibility. I’m sure there were a million ways he could interpret what he had just read, and I was hoping that in the… one minute I had left in silence, that I could remain strong and hold onto the courage I had found, the same courage I felt that first afternoon in the park when I sat down across from him underneath the tree instead of running some more.
I was watching his face, the reaction he was having to reading those words and the troubled expression that he wore told me he needed some clarification; he had some questions I was certain that he wanted answered as I looked down at my watch one more time. I watched the second hand tick around, like I was waiting for the New Year to arrive, and in a way I was, but my new year had begun today when I promised myself I would do this, and now I was just waiting to see if Lucas Ridgemont was going to be a part of my life and my new year or not.
Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine…
“I’m gay Luke, and I loved you… and I’m sorry, more than you will ever know, for being so selfish and so scared, so stupid, that I actually thought pretending I never met you would change that.”
In the first ten seconds of the new day, of his birthday, I had said more to him than I had said to anyone on the matter since that afternoon in his bedroom. He just sat there across from me, awestruck by the explanation he had finally received after four long years, and I saw his mouth open and then close again several times in an effort to say something, but not being able to find anything appropriate to say.
“I wish I was braver, like you, or smarter, and I wish I could take back all the hurt and the pain and the confusion and the loneliness, but I can’t, and I’m not,” I said ashamedly before the cool night air found the tears that were silently streaming down my cheeks.
“You’re not stupid,” he said adamantly, like he always had before, when he would insist that I not call myself that, and it was about the only time I would ever believe it. It felt so good to hear him tell me that again, and I couldn’t help it when I impulsively threw my arms around him in a hug meant to make up for the last four years of missed hugs. I suddenly retreated back to my side of the blanket though, when I felt his body go rigid against mine, and it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t okay with me being who I was now, what I was.
“Stop crying Justin,” he said almost as if it was not a request and coupled with a sigh of something closely related to aggravation. “What did you mean when you said you loved me?”
I wondered what it was specifically he wanted to hear as I said, “I meant just what I said. I loved you. Seeing you, the way you looked at me with nothing but total appreciation for our differences, the way you weren’t at all afraid of me, you had total trust in me, I loved that. I loved you.”
“I don’t understand then,” he admitted. “If you knew I wasn’t afraid of you, that I trusted you no matter what, why? Why did you run off and not give me a chance to show you that you could trust me, that I loved you too?” he asked, the years of hurt sounding clearly in his voice.
“Don’t you see? If I didn’t acknowledge you and my love for you, maybe… maybe I wouldn’t have to acknowledge that I was gay either,” I explained, trying not to let myself feel as ridiculous as that sounded.
After a minute of careful consideration he said, “You know that’s lame, right?” as he rolled his eyes at me. I nodded; I did know it… now. “So what was with all that not talking crap earlier? I mean I finally come out here and talk to you and then you won’t talk to me?”
“Day of Silence,” I said. “But it ended at midnight and now it’s your birthday,” I pointed out.
“That’s true, it is,” he agreed.
“Cake?” I offered again. “It’s your favorite, or… what used to be your favorite anyway.” I said sheepishly. I felt almost ridiculous not knowing anything that had happened in the last four years or what he liked now or disliked, as he made a face that was challenging.
“And that would be?” he quizzed me, his smile scheming.
“Carrot?” I answered, suddenly unsure of what I thought I knew.
“Okay, you win this time, and yeah sure, I guess you’re supposed to eat birthday cake on your birthday, even if it is… almost twelve thirty in the morning and it doesn’t even say Happy Birthday on it,” he teased.
I pulled out the cake again, blushing this time when I saw the word LOVE, before asking, “Hot chocolate?”
“With carrot cake?” he questioned. “Maybe afterward,” he smiled. I cut and served two pieces of cake before handing him a plate.
“Oh, be careful. The girl at the bakery said the black frosting will turn your mouth black,” I said before he found another reason to be mad at me. I figured he wouldn’t much appreciate walking around for the rest of his birthday with a black mouth, then again, what did I know.
“This is really sweet Justin,” he said after a few bites.
“It is?” I asked, since it seemed like your average carrot cake to me.
“Yeah, the way you planned this whole thing… you’re pretty sweet too,” he added, and the way his lips brushed gently across mine, only briefly, left me blushing furiously. I reached up, feeling the place on my lips where his had just touched mine and he laughed gently at my shock before he said, “Eat your cake.”
“So what’s this Day of Silence thing?” he wondered aloud.
“Well, it’s like a holiday… sort of. I promised myself that I would make it through today in silence, to honor and support tolerance and acceptance, including self-acceptance, and overcoming homophobia and prejudice, and in general, just supporting the right of every human being to be themselves, in peace. Yesterday was the Day of Silence, but for me, it was more. It was my day of reckoning, my day to face up to the person I had wronged so badly for so long, the person I loved,” I admitted.
“Loved? Like you don’t anymore?” he asked almost sadly.
“Truth?” I asked, smirking only slightly at the obvious connection.
“Truth,” he agreed.
“I’d really like to find out,” I said hoping he couldn’t tell how badly I was blushing in the moonlight, “’cause you look really hot like that.”
“Yeah? Well, we could camp out like we used to, and maybe work on that,” he suggested.
I nodded before he stood up to go get some more blankets from the house and I wished on a star one last time.
. . . . . . . . . . .
© This story and the images are posted here with Viv's permission. This story and the Days of Silence Image are the property of the author and are not to be copied or posted elsewhere without written permission of the author. All characters and plot lines are fictional. Any resemblance is strictly coincidental and should be noted as such. Click Here to go to Viv's Story Pages.
Author's Note: To my collaborator, my sweetie, my little brother and best friend... Thanks Davey. Special thanks to Eric for his creative opinions and consultations.
Anyone else, I hope you had a good read. Feedback is always appreciated at email@example.com
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