As soon as the final bell rang at school, maybe even a few seconds before that, I felt my pulse racing. I anticipated the release from my class, and knew that it was time for me to go. Quickly and efficiently, without running into any distractions. Most of the kids could hardly get a, "See you later, Zack!" out of their mouths before I was already out of earshot. I learned to make a habit of carrying my jacket and all of my books with me to my last class so that I wouldn't have to spend even more time going back to my locker. And I wouldn't have to run into anyone that I knew, stopping to chit chat. That would be wasting valuable time. Critical minutes that I needed to race home. I HAD to get home fast, and there wasn't time for too much conversation after school. 'He' made sure of that. Once I heard the bell chime urgently, I felt the adrenaline rush into my system. It was time to run.
I got my stuff together nervously, and was the first person out of the door, as always. I heard someone call out, "See you tomorrow Zack!" And I mumbled something in response, but nothing could keep me from my mission. I practically ran out of the building, and then had about a 25 minute walk home. A walk that I covered in half the time, as I always do. I walked feverishly between my one or two block sprints, racing towards the unknown, not being able to even GUESS what the afternoon would have in store for me. But I raced home anyway. Knowing damn well what might be waiting on me on the other side of that door if I was late.
I attempted to calm down a bit as I approached the back steps to our apartment, and straightened out my hair, getting my breathing under control. Easy Zack...get yourself together. I collected my thoughts before walking up the steps, because I know he'd hear me coming. He'd be waiting. Unfortunately, my watch let me know that I only had five minutes to get up those steps or I would have to face the consequences. So I took a deep breath, and felt my legs shake unnaturally as I ascended to the top floor of our apartment. I quietly stuck my key in the lock, and opened the door, creeping inside. No use. My dad was already watching the clock to make sure that I would get home on time. Not that it would matter. He'd find a reason to yell at me anyway.
"You're cutting it close these days, aren't you?" He said. I swear, sometimes, I was almost able to take some pride in knowing that I could stick to the rules that he had set for me.
"Yeah." I said quietly, and I walked past him, afraid of the fact that he was being so non-violent today. But it didn't last long. When I got to the hallway, I saw all of the garbage from my trash can spread all over the carpet in front of my bedroom door.
I turned to see him looking at the mess in front of me. "Now...I told you to take the garbage out of your room this morning before you went to school. Right?" He said. It sounded calm enough, but I could hear the anger in it anyway. That froze me, automatically causing my reflexes to tighten up around me. I meant to take it out, I really did! I don't know what happened? I guess I ran out so fast that I forgot. I was 14 for God sakes! Can't I make a mistake? Please God...don't let him hurt me. Please...?
"I was gonna be late..." I said, "...I'm sorry. I'll take it out." I got down on one knee, and started picking up the trash with my hands. But I knew the 'lesson' wasn't finished yet.
My father came up and brutally kicked some of the trash further down the hall, almost kicking my hand. "NOT NOW!!!! This morning!!! You were supposed to take it out this morning like I fucking TOLD you to! What the FUCK do I have to do to get you to listen to me??? Huh?" He shouted. Then he used his leg to almost push me over onto my side, "HUH???" My instincts were screaming for me to curl up into a ball and get ready for a beating, but my mind told me to just keep picking up the trash and get it done and over with before he gets the chance to hurt me. There were a few times when I could just ignore him long enough to get away without any punishments. I was hoping that this was one of those days.
"I'm sorry." I repeated in my lowest, non-threatening voice.
"Fucking pathetic piece of SHIT!!! Pick this shit up! NOW! And don't make me tell you again!" He said.
"I'm picking it up. I'm sorry." I said. He kicked some more stuff further down the hall to instigate me. But I wouldn't give in, I new better. He stepped on one of my fingers on purpose as he walked passed, and mashed it into the carpet. But I didn't cry out. I didn't dare. I winced a little, and waited for him to lift his foot, before pulling it away from him. I can handle that. Just...concentrate on the trash, and hide the pain until later. I could do that. He mumbled a few more words, and then stepped over it as I tried to get every scrap up from the floor. Then he walked off into his bedroom, where he was watching TV in the dark. That wasn't so bad. At least he was walking away from me. It could have been much worse this time. I sighed to myself, still trying to hold it all in. At this point, I had become a pro at it. I could fake a smile no matter HOW much I was hurting, and I made it into an art. It was be happy and content, or try to fight back and get beaten down into the dust. Every time. If I ever got the least bit angry, he'd kill me for sure. If I cried a single tear, he'd see the weakness in me and beat me until I just couldn't take any more. BUT...if I could just hold it all in, suppress it, suffocate it until the numbness drowned it out...if I could just do what he says and avoid the conflict of making any sudden moves...I'd be ok. I'd be safe. He'll be asleep soon, mom will come home from work in a few hours, and I'll be fine. I know I will.
"What's taking you so long?!?!" He shouted from the kitchen. I didn't answer. I just tried to hurry up and clean faster. C'mon Zack...you can do it. Hurry! There isn't that much trash on the floor. HURRY! He's coming! "Do you hear me talking to you?!?" He said. It must have been one of those bad days. He was 'searching'. Looking for me to do or say something...anything...that would give him a reason to beat the living shit out of me. Not that beating me for no reason would hurt his conscience any.
"Yeah. It's...it's clean." I said. And I stood up, wrapping the garbage bag up, and getting ready to take it outside as fast as possible. He was standing in the hallway in front of me so as to block my way, but I silently squeezed past him, careful not to make eye contact so as to not look like I was giving him a 'challenge'.
Then I felt a harsh smack hit me in the back of my head. "Next time...do it when I tell you." Then he hit me once again for effect, and I kept walking. I felt some tears bleed from my eyes, and forced my head down to the ground, defeated. I had to hold my breath to choke back a sob, and just...kept walking. Just get to the garbage cans outside Zack...you'll be fine. He can't break you. You're better than this. Stronger than this. Don't you let him see you cry. Don't you DARE.
I took the garbage outside, and wiped my stray tears away the second I put the bags down. I can't believe that I forgot the trash this morning. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!! Am I TRYING to end up in the hospital? Jesus! It burned in my chest, that feeling of self hatred. I couldn't do anything right. I tried, GOD...I tried! But he'd hate me anyway. He'd hurt me, and hit me, and swear at me, and never love or care for me no matter what impossible feat I accomplished. The more I thought about it, the more helpless I felt, and the more the tears pulled at my eyes, trying to break me down right there in the parking area. I had to stop thinking about this. So I put the bags inside the cans, and closed the lid. I looked at the long alley in front of me, and I just wanted to run away. To just take off and see how far this alley would take me. I just wanted to be a good kid, that's all. I didn't want to screw up everything and be called worthless and ugly and stupid all the time. It wasn't fair. I was trying, I was trying SO hard! But my dad didn't think so, and he said it every time he got a chance. As the sting from his head slaps began to tingle, I found myself wiping away a few more tears that had escaped without my knowledge. I've got to stop this...just relax. Take a few deep breaths and relax.
"Hiya Zack!" Said one of our neighbors across the alley. He was an older gentleman, no doubt playing around in his garden as always.
I sucked up all the anguish, rolled it into a tight ball and pushed it so far down into the pit of my stomach that not a single trace of it remained on the surface. "Hi, Mr. Schultz." I said with a half smile, hoping that the tears hadn't stained my face any.
"How's school going kiddo?"
"Fine. I got a 'C-' in algebra though. My grades were fine up until that point. New semester starts in a few days, so I'll get it next time." I said.
"I know you will. You got a brain on you, let me tell ya. Well, you know, if you ever need any help, let me know and I'll try to tutor you. Maybe we can both figure it out. Heh!"
"Thanks, Mr. Shultz. I'll keep you in mind! Hehehe! I gotta go, ok?" I knew my dad wasn't going to stand for me being gone too long. But at the same time, Mr. Shultz was one of the 'good guys', so the last thing I wanted to do was be even the least bit rude to him.
"Ok. You take care, Zack."
"I will, thank you." I grinned, waving goodbye. He went back into his house, and I began to climb the stairs again to our apartment. As I got closer to the back door...I felt that tight ball of fear and sadness begin to uncurl itself and expand again. Sending a cold shiver all over my body as I quietly turned the doorknob. Just a few more hours, that's all. Just a few more hours.
I came back in, hoping to just make it to my room alive. Sigh...but like I said before, he was searching for a reason, and he would find it whether I wanted him to or not. He was waiting on me, and I kept my head down, using his feet to know where he was standing in relation to me. And I tried to walk by quickly without being confrontational in any way. But as soon as I walked passed him, he grabbed me hard by both shoulders, his large hands covering my wiry arms easily, and he shook me violently. "The NEXT time I tell you to do something, you DO it! GOT IT?" He shouted. I was silent, but he hit me again, harder this time. "GOT IT?????" He shouted even louder.
"Y-y-yes." I stuttered. I did all that I could to hold back the tears, holding my breath as the pressure built up inside of me, but they failed me every time my dad was in one of my moods. He was staring me right in the eyes, as though he was waiting for the waterworks to begin. And he got his wish as a few loose tears trickled involuntarily down my face. He had so much anger in his eyes...how can he look at me like that? What did I do that was so evil? How could I possibly be so...wrong? Tears were almost flooding out of my eyes now, and I was forced to breathe in short, trembling gasps. I tried to remain strong and suck them back up. Unfortunately...my dad could already tell that I was terrified, and there was no way that he was going to let me go now. Not now. It started with a slap or two...and went on from there.
Maybe it was five minutes....maybe it was fifty. I couldn't really tell. But once he began to beat me, holding back the tears wasn't an option anymore. In fact, holding them in would only make the beatings worse. I guess he would see that as me trying to imply that he couldn't hurt me anymore, and that would only make him work harder at breaking my spirit. There was no fighting back. It was either 'take it', or 'get it even worse'. He was smart to stay away from my face with most of his licks...most went to my chest or to my back. Occasionally, a shot to my stomach would make my knees buckle, and he would stand me up before I was able to recover. My arms and legs would sometimes be sore for days afterwards. When you're being hit, it's just in your instincts to defend yourself...but not with him. With him, I had to let go. My defenses had to come down and I had to just 'survive'. I tried defending myself before, and that intensified his efforts by ten. I tried to run and hide when I was younger, but where was I going to run to? This was home, and he'd get to me eventually. And then he would make it extra harsh for trying to run in the first place. So...the only answer? Survive. Survive, and do my best to bare the brunt of it all long enough for him to leave me alone. It hurt, God it hurt, but I could take it. It's not like I was bleeding too badly. No broken bones or anything. I guess that as long as I could avoid those injuries, then it was just 'pain'. And pain goes away eventually. In an hour or two, I'll be able to stand up straight again, and I'd be fine. He wouldn't hurt me too badly, he'd do just enough to teach me a lesson. Nothing more.
Pushing me hard up against the wall was what I got most, and he would shout out these awful things all the way throughout my punishment. Words that hurt more than any blow he could deliver to my young teenage frame. The shoves and slaps were common, but for some reason it was the words that stuck with me. They changed every time, and he seemed to be able to put just the right combination of curse words and insults together, to make a strong enough blade to stab them straight through me. Right through the heart. I doubt I'll ever be able to sleep at night again without hearing those words in the back of my mind. This had become an almost daily ritual at this point, and I was becoming desensitized to the horror of the beatings at this point. I had come to expect them. And the sad thing is that I could only use it a 'lesson' of what NOT to do next time. Through trial and error, I'd become his perfect little soldier and never get caught being a 'pathetic piece of shit' again. Not for THAT particular fuck up, anyway. But there would always be something else. And I'd always be to blame, and I would always get punished for it. Brutally.
Some days were better than others...some days...were much much worse. Like I said, it wasn't so much the physical pain, as it was the abuse that I caused myself in my own mind. Where I believed every word that he said to me in anger...and I broke my neck trying to be just the opposite. I had to be PERFECT! Everything that I did, everything that I said, everything that I was...had to be absolutely flawless. And no one would be able to see me or hear from me or anything until I WAS perfect. Anything less than perfection would mean another beating in my mind, and I couldn't withstand too many more of them. Always afraid that one day I would be bruised or broken in such a way that my mother would have to learn about the terrible life I lived when she wasn't home. I couldn't hurt her, not like this. And if all I had to take was a few strikes and a bunch of curse words...then better me than her.
When it was over, he pushed me into my bedroom door and down onto the floor. I was still crying, still aching all over and hoping that he would stop for the night. "CLEAN UP THIS ROOM!!! Fucking pretty boy, is what you are! Think you're too pretty to do ANYTHING around here! Fuck you! Clean up this room and KEEP it that way!!!" He shouted. Then he slammed my door shut and mumbled some more stuff as he walked away. I lay there on the floor for a few minutes, crying hard but doing my best to make sure that even the slightest of whimpers didn't escape my lips. He'd come back if heard me, I didn't doubt that. So I reached up to grab a pillow off of my bed, my ribs aching from being thrown against a dresser, and I cried into the pillow. Muffling my silent screams as best as it could. I'd only have a few minutes to stay down on the floor and nurse my 'wounds', then I'd have to start cleaning. God forbid he were to come back and see me still laying there. So I slowly rose to one knee, my stomach hurting with the tight knot that he punched into it, and I crawled around on my knees in my room, cleaning up the few papers and toys that I had scattered around on the floor. My room wasn't that dirty. But it wasn't clean enough for him, and since I was the weak one, the stupid one...that's all that mattered.
I use to get so angry. I use to get so enraged with the way he treated me, and the sickening things he said. But it became an everyday part of my life. Something that I couldn't avoid. It's like...if it were to rain everyday for the next two years straight, what would be the point of complaining about it anymore? This was no different. It was my after school 'activity', the beatings, and my attempts to stay out of their path. Or at least keeping his temper to a minimum so they wouldn't be too severe. I accepted it. God help me...I accepted it. It was ALWAYS my fault. If I had only taken out the trash. If I had only kept these papers off of my bedroom floor. If I had only picked up that mess faster like he told me to. I felt more tears crawl down my cheeks, and I put my hand over my mouth to stifle any more sobs that may escape audibly from my lips. My vision became blurry, and the knot in my stomach pinched me in pain. I waited until the soreness went down a bit, and then I went right back to cleaning.
"ARE YOU CLEANING???" He shouted from the other room.
I was too scared to answer, too scared NOT to answer. But after a slight hesitation, I knew it wasn't wise to make him repeat himself. Not today. "Yeah...I'm cleaning." And I waited for him to say something else. I froze when all I heard was silence. Then, after a few seconds, I let out a slight sigh of relief, and went back to picking up papers. Just stay quiet...he can't hurt you if you do what he says and just leave it alone. It's not worth the fight. It never is. You're ok, Zack. You're ok.
I made it through the afternoon storm, and sat back against my bed. I suppose I had gotten used to sitting on the floor at this point. Either crawling on my knees or just leaned back against a wall or something. I get uncomfortable in chairs and on my bed. The bruises would cause such a constant misery with the way they dug into me if I was sitting the wrong way. At least on the floor, I had room to stretch out. It may look uncomfortable to other people, but to me it was the best way to keep from making the pain any worse. I turned on some music to clear my mind. It was so soft that I could barely hear it, but I didn't dare turn it up any higher. And if I breathed quietly, then I could hear the tunes just fine. Somehow, a soft melody would massage the pains right out of me, and it was the most relaxing thing in the world. It sent me to places where 'HE' couldn't reach me. Where I didn't have to endure this emotional prison, where I didn't have to pretend that this wasn't damaging me beyond repair. A place that I hope to go to one day...
...Even if I have to commit suicide to get there...
My father didn't really mess with me too much for the rest of that night. A few 'comments' here and there, but the bad part of the day was over, and I was able to get by without any more real confrontations. I went to sleep about 10:30, and slept clean through to the next day. My dad would be gone by the time I woke up, on his way to work, and things would be ok again. Until I came home from school, that is. But I'll worry about that when the time comes. When I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, I thought I had a bruise on my cheek and nearly freaked out. But looking closer, I saw that it was just some of my mom's lipstick. She probably kissed me while I was sleeping that night. She'd work late a lot of nights for extra money, and it killed me to see her stretch herself out so thin sometimes. But she was a workaholic to a degree, and there was no convincing her otherwise. She strutted lazily into the kitchen as I was on my way out. I almost burst out laughing when I saw her hair in such a disarray!
"What are you giggling about?" She smiled.
"You look like a Muppet." I said, and started giggling uncontrollably. Hehehehe, she couldn't help but grin herself. There's no way one of us could laugh without inspiring the other one to laugh too. My mom and I just had that effect on each other, and it kept us laughing all the time...even when 'he' was around.
"Yeah well, I'm not going to the prom anytime soon." She said.
"More like the Headbanger's Ball!"
"Hey! I just woke up, gimme a break!" She wrapped her arms around me playfully from behind and gave me a big kiss on my cheek while I chuckled happily in her arms. "Say, I know I overslept and all, so I didn't make any breakfast, but if you want I'll take you out for some quick pancakes or something. What do you say?"
"That's ok. I ate some oatmeal for breakfast. I've gotta go anyway." I said, grabbing my backpack.
"Go? You don't have to be at school for another hour."
"I know. But me and Adam have a score to settle. I've got a video game reputation to uphold, you know? I'll see ya!" I kissed her on the cheek and walked for the door.
"You got your keys?"
"Got your lunch money?"
"You're not leaving your homework again are you?"
"Bye mom!" I said, avoiding the usual checklist of questions. If I had stuck around, she probably could have come up with a few hundred more. I started walking down the steps, when I suddenly dropped my bag, and ran back up to the door, bursting through it and surprising her a bit. I ran to my room, got my half full bag of trash, and took it out. "Almost forgot. No mistakes." If my dad is going to look for a reason to hate me, I might as well make him work for it. "Bye mom."
I hurried off to Adam's house across the alley and his mom invited me in while he was in the shower. Now, Adam was one of my best friends, and I wasn't really attracted to him in an emotional way. Not like THAT anyway. He was more a brother than anything. But I'll admit, in my hormonal frenzy, the thought of him in the shower was quite an intriguing image. But at this age I wouldn't mind screwing ANYBODY! There's a lot of cuties in our little circle of friends, and I thought about them every once in a while. Especially Sam. Hehehe, he was a year younger than the rest of us, and a certified blond hottie if ever I saw one. Still, this was my little rat pack, my family away from home, and I never really made any attempts to sleep with any of them. Not so much out of honor and friendship as it was the terror of being called a fag. I couldn't have that.
"You're early." Adam said, coming into the room in his robe. He 'carefully' changed in the room behind me, putting on pants before taking off his robe. I was too scared to be caught looking over my shoulder, but I could see a slight reflection in his TV screen. We engaged in a few video game battles as three or four more of our buds showed up, and kept playing until Adam's mom practically forced us to get out before we were all late. If not for her, I imagine that we would have stayed there all day and not have even noticed until the sun went down.
That was our early morning activity everyday. We would all meet over there, with the exception of Sam who would always run and catch up to us as we were walking the short 8 to 10 blocks to school from the neighborhood, and hang out until it was time to leave. It was the highlight of my day to be honest. It was the only time that I felt like a part of something. It was all the love and attention that I needed. They never made me feel like dirt, they never hit me, they never yelled at me. They were happy to have me around. It was my little posse of wise-asses, and everybody played their part. Everybody had a unique flavor to add to the group, me included, and that dynamic has always stayed with me as the way things should be. A bunch of friends that just feed off of each other and are there when you need them most. When we walked to school, for that small amount of time...I felt human again. So I clung onto them as tightly as possible. It felt good to be smiled at once in a while. It felt good to not have to walk on eggshells and wonder if any of them were going to suddenly snap and rip my head off if I did or said the wrong thing. They were my friends, my little screwed up bunch of soldiers in a platoon that moved together as one wherever they went. These are the times of my life that I hope to remember.
With us carrying on about ten different subjects at once, I found myself smiling the whole way. It may seem strange that I could even work up a smile in my current situation, but it wasn't hard. Not anymore. In fact, the smiles, the sense of humor, the constant laughter, was the only way for me to relate to people. It was the only way for me to hide from the reality of what was going on at home. The people around me, no matter how well they 'claimed' to know me, were too busy laughing to ever think that anything was wrong. Laughter was my shield. My curtain that hid the demons from public view. Because if I were to be serious for too long, then I'd certainly be figured out. I'd have the urge to tell somebody. I'd cry out loud, or scream, or punch a brick wall until my hands were covered in blood. They'd know...and they'd tell 'HIM'...and I was certain that no amount of freedom would be worth the pain and suffering he'd put me through if I ever told. If you've never been through it, let me tell you...it's never as easy as 'telling somebody'. It's a 24 hour ride on a broken down roller coaster, and you never know when it's going to just fly off of the tracks and send you crashing into the ground. CONSTANT fear. Never being able to let down your defenses. Never being able to put UP your defenses. Never being able to break away from the voices in your head. Never being able to get close enough to anyone to let them figure me out. I had to find a balance between the relief of letting the pain go, and the horror of my father finding out that I told someone. The logic may seem screwed up to many people...but when you're living it, the so-called 'promise' of being safe, and the certainty of surviving the same way you have been for years now, is not a hard set of decisions to choose from. I couldn't depend on my own father, how the hell was I supposed to depend on anyone ELSE to swoop down and save me? At least my way, I know what I'm doing. I know how he thinks, and how h reacts, and how to get away with certain things. I knew those things like nobody else ever could. And I'll make it. I'll survive. And I'll be great one day...I know I will. I'm not worthless! He'll see! Until then...all of the torture can be hidden behind a smile. Where no one can see my sadness. No one can see my pain. I won't let them.
"I'm TALKING to ya nut ball!" Sam said, playfully jumping up on my back. He didn't weigh much, but his weight felt good on me, especially when his cheek would touch mine as his arms wrapped around my shoulders. Then I felt a pain in my side from the day before, and squirmed a bit. Eventually, I had to put him down to keep from yelping out loud like a puppy. Grrrr...it felt good to have him touching me though. Hehehehe!
"What already?" I smiled.
"We're going to the lake today after school. Are you coming or what?"
Adam speaks for me, "'I've got to ask my dad first.' you KNOW that's what he's gonna say."
"Forget about asking him. Just tell him you had detention or something and come with us." Sam pleaded. "It'll be fun."
I just shook my head. He'd be so mad if I was late. He barely gave me enough time to get home as it was. And telling him that I had detention would only give him another reason to get even more upset. I didn't need that, not after yesterday. "Not today, maybe later."
"Suuuuurrre...later." Adam would give me hell for not hanging out after school, but I was always welcome on the weekends, and I hung out as much as I could.
The school day was pretty normal. I kept up the smile, and nothing could penetrate through it. I swallowed it all down and no one could see what my life was like. It was so cool. It was blocked from their view, no matter how close they were to me, no matter what questions they had for me to answer. Then...something changed. An event that I hadn't planned for, and couldn't hide, even if I wanted to.
For our history class, we were watching a video on the French Revolution. But two classes were joined together to watch it on the same film screen, and I was sitting in the middle between my class and theirs. And so was another boy. He caught my eye the second he entered the room, and I just felt this...sensation that seemed to fill my chest with helium. Have you ever just looked at someone and felt an instant connection? Not just someone who's cute, not someone who's sexy and you want to get busy with...but an actual connection. Like you've known them all your life. As though divine intervention has put you two on the same section of the planet for reason and that you were destined to meet eventually, no matter how long it took. Well that's what I felt, and he was damn cute, but it was that mysterious connection that caught my attention most. I won't call it love, or even a crush, but it was something, and it captivated me from the first time I laid eyes on him.
He was only wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of stone washed jeans, but it seemed to look like a tux the way he wore it. He had the kind of extra slim hips that appeared to be 'sucked in' in the middle, and his shirt clung to those snake like hips beautifully. His bright hazel eyes seemed to glow even in the dim light of the classroom. His lips were perfect, his skin was like silk, his neck looked delicious. Wow...he was cute in a way that I just wasn't used to seeing. All of this was topped off with a short healthy mass of curly, chestnut brown hair. Not curly enough to actually be called 'curls', but not straight enough to be called 'straight'. It was some middle ground that worked just right for him. Maybe it was fate stepping in again, or maybe he just saw me staring at him like some dork and wanted to know what my problem was. But he came and sat right next to me. "Hey." He said, mostly out of courtesy, I assumed.
The movie started, and about halfway through it, we were all pretty bored with it. It might have been cool if it wasn't, you know...educational. Besides, my mind was locked onto the boy next to me, and he had put his head down to take a little snooze during the flick. I couldn't stop staring at him. His angelic face, eyes closed, mouth slightly parted...it was so peaceful. So inviting. He was facing me, and I put my head down on my desk too, just so I could look at the beauty resting in front of me. Anybody that could possibly make me think that he was cuter than Sam, MUST be something special. I was almost startled to see the lights come back on after the movie was over. I shook myself back to alertness, and I saw the boy still asleep. I knew how teachers loved nothing more than to embarrass any kid who fell victim to the sandman while having to endure their hypnotic babbling. He didn't need that. I had to wake him.
My arm was trembling as it began to leave my side. I almost didn't feel worthy of touching him. He was a work of art, something to be admired from far away. And yet, the excitement of actually coming into contact with him pushed me forward. My hand shakily came to rest gently on his shoulder...and I shook him a little bit. He didn't wake up right away, but I was hardly touching him at the time. I felt a wave of fear roll through me as I pressed a little harder, and shook him a bit more effectively. His eyes slowly opened, like the blossoming of a summer rose, and he sat up. "Oh man...I dozed off."
"Um...y-y-yeah, you did." I said with a weak smile.
"Yeah...." But before I could work up the courage to say anything else, the other class began to pick up their stuff and go back to their classroom. I almost panicked, wondering if I'd ever see him again. If I'd be blessed enough to touch him again. But by the time my mind had sorted out the flood of confusing thoughts...he was getting up to leave. He didn't say anything else, but why should he? I was a 'worthless piece of shit anyway'. Sigh...you know, looking at him that day...I had almost forgotten that.
It was really hard to forget about him once he was gone. I mean, I've seen cute kids in the mall and everything, or in magazine ads, or in movies. They're everywhere. But I could always put them into an emotional closet somewhere where I only had to think about them when I needed a jack off fantasy for later. But not this kid. He stayed with me. His image was burned into my eyes, and I could hardly concentrate. You know, there are so many people out there who will tell you that love at first sight doesn't happen, and I'd be the first to agree with them. But...this was something so powerful, so sudden. I mean, what the hell happened, anyway? I don't even know his NAME! I didn't even talk to him yet. And yet, I longed to know everything. From that very first glance, I was intrigued to know every faint detail, every flaw, every possibility. Love at first sight? No...but I wanted it to be, more than anything.
Right before my last class, I grabbed my stuff out of my locker and prepared to run home afterwards. As long as I was prepared, I'd be ok. Adam gave me shit for not going with them after school, but he already knew that it was a lost cause. Even if he didn't know why. The bell rang, and I trotted off home. Made it all the way to the same steps, walked to the same door, and opened it. My dad was evidently watching TV in his room, and I quietly walked to my bed to put my stuff down. So far so good. I double checked everything to make sure that he wouldn't have anything to yell about, and it all seemed to be in place. He was quiet, and I didn't want to start any kind of interaction at that point. But he'd probably tell me I was rude for not saying anything when I entered 'his house'. Meaning that I was going to have to make the first move, and walk into the dragon's lair. I swallowed hard, and crept into his dark room where he was laying on the bed. I was almost too scared to speak. He could turn from peaceful to a full blown rage so quickly that I wouldn't even have the chance to protect myself from the first few blows. Still, no need to drag this out any longer than I had to.
"...Ahem...hey..hi. I'm...I'm home." I said, just above a whisper, my stomach turning flips at the thought of what he might say.
"You have homework?" He said.
"Then let's get on it. Go on." He said. And that was it. I didn't want to move, not yet. I was caught a bit off guard by him being so calm. "Go on, now. Homework, let's go." He said a bit louder, a bit of annoyance creeping into his voice. So I decided to simply count my blessings and leave before he changed his mind. I shut my bedroom door silently, and waited for him to do or say something. That's when I heard the squeak in his mattress meaning that he was getting up. I froze, my heart beating rapidly, and my lungs shivering with fear. I didn't make a sound. But as soon as I heard his heavy footsteps coming closer to my room, I felt the tears begin to rise to the surface automatically. He was coming...and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing. Then...the footsteps came right up to my bedroom door...and kept going passed it to the kitchen. I heard some dishes rattle a bit, and then the footsteps passed my door again. I listened to hear the squeaks in the mattress again, telling me that he was back in his room, and then I let out a long sigh of relief. I could breath again, and my heartbeat began to return to it's normal pace. I felt the tears drying on my face, and wiped them away with my sleeve. It's ok, Zack. He's not in the mood. We're cool...everything is cool. I sat on the floor, opened my books, and started on my homework.
I went to sleep still thinking about that boy from the history class, and it made me smile. It had actually been a pretty good day. It would have been better if I had gone to the lake, but it was a good day nonetheless. One of the best that I've had in a long long time.
The next morning, I went over to Adam's house as always, hoping to win my title back from the day before. Hey...he CHEATED anyway! I was a little bit later that morning, since my mom forced me to eat breakfast to make up for last time, so I didn't get any shower fantasies this time around. We preserved our morning religion with video games as everyone else randomly rang the doorbell one by one. Then, as all of our usual crew was sitting there, the bell rang again. I looked at them and asked, "Don't tell me, Sam, the 'boy wonder', actually decided to join us over here today?"
"Hehehe, no way. Sam's parents HATE us. We're bad influences in their strict little world. He'd get a lecture something awful if they found out." Adam ran downstairs and I heard him invite somebody in. When he came back...the by was with him!!! The kid from history class! He was here! RIGHT HERE!!! My mouth almost dropped open wide enough to swallow a truck!
"Hey, you guys." He said, still looking more beautiful than words could describe.
They all said hello like they knew him, and I was definitely missing something here. "Zack, this is Brody. Brody, this is the guy I was telling you about." He shook my hand and smiled.
"Didn't I see you yesterday? History class right? Hehehe!" Oh, his laugh was so damn incredible. Am I dreaming this? Can this possibly be real in ANY way?
"Yeah..." Was all I could say. God, I hope I'm not blushing! Calm down Zack, calm down.
"So what are you guys playing?" Brody asked, sitting down on the floor next to me. As he leaned back against Adam's bed, both of his knees up, his legs spread open wide enough to touch mine. I hope nobody heard me gasp when he touched me, that would be bad.
"NBA Jam, and I'm leading by 38 points! So if you want to just take my game, go ahead. I mean, there is NO way Zack is going to win anyway at this point." Adam teased.
"Shut up! You cheated anyway!" I said.
"That's what they all say!" Brody chimed in with a grin. I couldn't help but blush a little, and we played for the rest of the time that we had that morning before his mom sounded the 'you'll be late for school' alarm.
Walking to school that day, I was amazed just how incredibly well Brody seemed to fit in with the rest of us. His sense of humor, his common interests, and the final test, being able to survive a surprise attack from Sam jumping on his back when he caught up with the rest of us. It was like he was instant family. He lived up by the lake, and I guess he was riding his bike home yesterday when this motley crew rolled over there to climb on the rocks. Sigh...I wish I could have gone, it would have been awesome. Now the rest of the gang was a whole 24 hours of friendship ahead of me. Not that Brody didn't talk to me whenever he could. It was fun making him laugh, allowing him to make me laugh. And by the time we had completed our journey to the school's front gate, I was in love with everything that I knew about him. Granted, it wasn't much, but it was enough for an undeniable crush if nothing else. Finally, Sam has some competition in the absolutely adorable category.
I spent the next few days just giggling quietly to myself, and never once thinking about home. Never once feeling bad about anything. It was like I was getting closer and closer to Brody every single day. Every morning we would chit chat and horse around, to the point where I didn't even want to play video games anymore. As long as I got to talk to Brody I was just fine. Hehehe, to be honest, I think it frustrated Adam to now be forced to play against some other folks who were clearly not his match. Not like I was anyway. Those mornings when we walked to school became a variety of cherished moments, and my crush was growing to levels that it had never been to with anybody else. Sam LOVED Brody to death, and became his little brother almost instantly. It was fun to watch. But no matter what, Brody always gravitated closer to me and we would talk. I had only known him a week, and I felt like I could tell him almost anything. ALMOST anything.
That Friday afternoon, the final bell rang, and I hurried out of my classroom. Just the way I was 'trained' to. But Adam actually caught me in the hall this time, and Brody was standing next to him. "Hey Zack, later on this weekend, we're going out to play some tackle football. You're gonna be there right?" Adam asked.
Tackle football? Me, and that beautiful boy standing next to him, purposely running into each other and wrestling the other down to the ground, where we roll around back and forth, sweating and breathing hard? Um...can you say HELL YEAH?!?! "Sure! Sounds cool! Just gimme a call."
I started to walk away, I was wasting precious time here, but Brody asked, "Oh wait! Let me have your number dude. I'll call you later on or something. Is that ok?" He asked. I was in a hurry, a BIG hurry...but I nearly whimpered out loud at the idea of this boy asking me for my phone number. Ok...just give him the number and go! No biggie. If I cut through Mrs. Kwai's bushes, I can make it home in time. No problem. Besides, if I said no, he'd think I didn't want him to have it.
Um...yeah, sure. Do you have a pen?" He said he did, and started looking in his bag for one. is hand was fishing around for a few seconds, and then he had to set it down on the floor to look closer. Come on, come on, come ON! Please? FINALLY...he got one out, and a scrap of paper. I scribbled it down as fast as I could and handed it back to him, ready to tear out of there.
"Is this a '4' or a '9' at the end?" He asked.
"A '4'." I answered.
"What time should I call?" No no no! I don't have time for this! Oh god!
"About 6 o'clock is fine! K? Whenever." I said, backing up and ready to go.
"Ok...I'll talk to you then." And once I heard him say that, I took off.
I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. Skipping whole sections of sidewalk as I raced home. I cut through Mrs. Kwai's bushes, getting her usual yelling as I ran past. "Sorry, Mrs. Kwai!" No time to stop now. I can make it! I can make it! I sped all the way home with a minute to spare, exhausted, out of breath, and sore. But I made it. I didn't have the strength to smile, but I was happy to be home. I walked up the steps, and came in the back door. My dad was walking into the kitchen at the time. "Huff...huff...hey." I said.
He looked at the clock, and saw that I was on time. He wasn't going to catch me on any bullshit today. I went into my room and couldn't help but smile. I couldn't believe it! Brody had my phone number! He was going to call me! Oh man...what do I say to him? What do I do? He's so cute! Geez, I'm going to end up having a heart attack by the third sentence. I can't wait! "Zack..." My father called out to me.
"Come here!" Shit...I did something, or didn't do something....again. Whatever it was, I could hear a few insults getting ready to fly my way.
"Where's the key for the basement?" he asked.
"OH! It's right here! I've got it. I put it on my key chain yesterday because I did my laundry right before bed and..." A smack hit me before I could finish, and the keys fell to the floor.
"How the fuck am I supposed to wash clothes with the key in YOUR fucking pocket??? HUH???"
I felt tears bubble up to the surface and spill over my eyes. "I'm...I'm sorry..I..."
"Sorry isn't going to get the clothes clean! It's not going to wash these dishes! Sorry isn't good for shit! You hear me? Now since you want to do YOUR clothes and play the little pretty boy at school for all of your friends, you can just wash mine too and finish these dishes! You're not to good to do some goddamn work around here!"
"I was just trying to give you the key..." I said.
"You were what? Huh? I didn't hear you? What was that?" He said moving closer to me and gritting his teeth. "Say it again. C'mon...say it again." He dared me. He it me on the side of the head. "SAY IT AGAIN!"
"I'm sorry..." I cried.
"No no...that's not what you fucking said to me. C'mon...one more time." I didn't say anything, and he hit me again, but this time I tried to walk away from him before he hurt me any worse. That's when he grabbed me violently and put his hand around my throat, lifting me up onto the kitchen counter by the sink! Struggling was useless at this point. I heard the dirty dishes rolling around and a glass fell to the floor, shattering on impact. "Are you gonna do what I tell you, or are you going to sit here and give me more lip?" I tried to breathe, but putting my hands up was a defense, and it only caused him to hit me again.
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..." I wailed.
"I'm sorry...please? I'm sorry..." There was a moment of silence, and then he let me go. I slid down off the counter, and he walked over to the kitchen closet. He took out a broom and threw it at me, almost hitting me in the face with it.
"FIRST of all, you're going to clean up this fucking mess! Then you're going to wash those goddamn dishes! You HEAR me?" I nodded silently, tears streaking down my cheeks. "STOP! Wipe your face! HERE, wipe your face!" He said, throwing me a paper towel. I slowly started sweeping up the broken glass, and trying not to cry while doing it. At one time I wondered why I might be forced to live through this when other people don't. But I stopped wondering why a log time ago. It's just the way it is. And I can't change that.
It took me an hour to finish the dishes and all, and I put my dad's laundry in the machine downstairs. When I came back up, I saw him on the phone with somebody. It was 6 o'clock. Shit...I went over to him meekly. I timidly looked up into his eyes for a minute and whispered, "I'm...I'm sort of expecting a call."
"Hold on a sec," He said into the phone, "You're what? Speak up. You're always so damn quiet."
I cleared my throat, "I'm...I'm expecting a friend of mine to call...so...I was wondering..."
"When you pay some bills in this house, you can expect a call. Got me? Now don't you have some homework to do?"
"I don't give a shit if it's Christmas morning! You're bugging the hell out of me! GO! Get in your room and do SOMETHING! GO!" He said, pushing me forcefully. I would have stomped my way back to my room, but I didn't dare. He threw me down the steps the last time I showed him attitude. So I quietly walked back to my room, assumed my proper position on the floor, and pouted it out in silence. It'll be ok. I'll see him on Saturday, and he'll understand. He'll call again sometime, and I'll be able to talk next time around. It'll be cool. The very thought of it was the only thing keeping me sane, keeping me alive. I felt a small river of blood trickle out of my nose, and crawled over to get a tissue. I'll be fine. Nothing major...nothing out of the ordinary. I still have Brody. And he makes it all go away, even if just for a little while.