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The Unfortunate Occurence at Shenandoah High 2020 - 17. Chapter 17

Tristan strikes up a friendship with the person he least expected.

“So, basically what you’re saying is that you’re abandoning me.”

Keisha rolls her eyes and holds her finger like an inch away from my face.

“Don’t even. Don’t act like you haven’t been ignoring me these last couple of days while you and Finn have been off galivanting around doing God knows what – not that I have a problem with that. I’m actually really happy for you. About time one of us gets some.”

I look around the crowded upstairs hallway to see if anyone’s listening in on our conversation. It’s about to be our lunch period and Keisha’s just informed me she will be meeting up with Sheldon in the auditorium. It’ll be the first time since they’ve talked since Finn’s party.

“First of all, I don’t gallivant – whatever that means. Second of all, I am not getting anything. Third of all, you know I hate eating alone.”

Whining is so not a good look for me but I don’t care. I really do hate eating alone. There’s nothing more pathetic than sitting alone in a high school cafeteria.

“I know, babe, but it’s just this once,” she says running a finger through the glossy black curls framing her face. “Besides, I just really need to know where we stand. Your girl needs some closure right about now.”

I should be more supportive. Ever since the party, Keisha’s been in a funk over Sheldon which is strange because typically whenever Keisha has boy problems, she cries, eats a pack of double-stuffed Oreos, burns some sage and 24 hours later she’s good.

“Fine,” I say. “You go get your man back. I expect to hear details about it later.”

“Well, if I don’t show up to Theater, that probably means things did not go well and I’ve driven to the river to drown myself.”

“Geez – I thought I was the dramatic one.”

The two of us exchange goodbyes as the warning bell rings. As I make my way to my locker to grab my lunch, I see something red in the distance that catches my eye. Colin McNamara – aka the choreographer from Hell – stands out in a sea of students scrambling to get to their lunchtime destination. It feels so weird seeing him outside the auditorium. He locks eyes with me and starts making his way in my direction.

I’m opening my locker when he sidles up next to me. He’s standing so close I can smell him. He smells clean and a bit like citrus. It’s a pleasant smell but I prefer something earthier and sweatier – like Finn. He doesn’t say anything as I nearly arrange my textbooks and notebooks before grabbing my lunch from the top shelf.

“Who’s that?” he asks right as I’m about to close my locker. He points to a photo of me and my brother Everett taken at Dad’s 50th birthday party a few years ago.

“That’s my brother,” I say. “His name is Everett.”

“He looks familiar.”

Colin furrows his brow and scratches at what little hair he has on his chin. I close my locker and start walking in the direction of the cafeteria.

“Where you headed?” he asks as he walks alongside me.

Something tells me I’m about to spend the next thirty minutes pretending to listen to this guy talk about how awesome California is and how great of an actor he is or how he once ran into Keanu Reeves in a café and I don’t know if I’m in the mood for that.

“Cafeteria,” I say.

“Ugh,” he says. “People actually eat in the cafeteria?”

“Well, believe it or not, people have to eat.”

I see Colin recoil out of the corner of my eye.

“I mean – I didn’t mean that in a bad way,” he says in a low voice. “It’s just that back when I used to go here I got food poisoning and I was out for a week. Almost missed prom.”

I look over at him and ask, “You used to go here?”

He looks over at me and grins. “What – you didn’t know? I assumed Sheldon would’ve told you guys.”

“No. He didn’t.”

“Class of 2016,” he says.

“My brother’s Class of 2015,” I say. “You said that he looks familiar. Well, you both would’ve been here at the same time.”

We both push our way through the double doors leading into the cafeteria. The place is already packed which is a bit discouraging because I wanted my pick of the tables. As we pass the “jock table”, I see Finn sitting between two of his teammates whose names I do not know but faces I recognize. He sees me and gives me a slight nod. I give him a slight smile and me and Colin make our way over to one of the tables next to the window.

“Nothing’s changed.” Colin takes the seat across from me. “The jocks are still king and we are the planets and stars that revolve around them.”

“Please tell me college is different,” I say as I unwrap the breakfast burrito Dad made for me.

Colin leans back in his seat and starts drumming his fingers against the table. I notice the silver band around his ring finger – on his left hand.

“Hate to disappoint you but cliques still exist outside of high school – especially on the college campus. There’s the theater majors. Music majors. Athletes. College Republicans and College Democrats. And worst of all … fraternities and sororities.

“But hey,” he continues. “Cliques aren’t all bad. I pretty much hang out with all the theater kids. We’re like this big, dysfunctional family, which is nice – especially if you don’t have family of your own.”

Moving to Chicago would mean leaving my dad behind. Colin’s on the other side of the country away from his family. Maybe moving away wouldn’t be so bad if I had friends, really good friends to be with.

“Reminds me of something I heard RuPaul say,” I say wiping at my mouth with a napkin. “There’s the family you’re born into and then there’s the family you get to choose.”

“Exactly,” Colin says slapping the table. “By the way, kudos on the RuPaul reference. Sort of confirms my suspicions about you.”

“And what suspicions are those?”

“Well, Andy’s pretty obvious but I couldn’t quite figure you out a first. Nice to know we both play for the same team – as cliché as that sounds.”

“Well, I don’t make it a habit going around announcing my orientation but … your suspicions are correct. P.S. – straight guys watch Drag Race, too.”

“My apologies,” Colin says with a chuckle. “I didn’t mean to sound reductive. Hey – I don’t know if this is too intrusive but are you out?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Came out to my dad sophomore year. Feels nice not to have that albatross hanging around my neck.”

“Well – that’s a relief to hear.” Colin frowns and looks down at his lap. “At least you’re not suffering in silence for four years.”

“I’m very fortunate to have a dad and a brother and a best friend who are super supportive and understanding. I try not to take anything for granted because you just hear all of these stories about kids being thrown out of their homes because one or both of their parents couldn’t handle them being anything else but straight. Breaks my heart. I know how easily things could’ve gone in the opposite direction.”

Colin slowly look and seems to avoid eye contact with me. Instead he clears his throat and looks out the window.

“I came out to my parents a few days after graduation. I just remember being exhausted by the weight of carrying this secret around. I remember every single detail of that day. Where I was and what I had on. We were sitting on the back porch and I was wearing this hideous tank top from Old Navy that I thought was so cool and these ugly-ass khaki shorts. My mom and dad were sitting on the porch swing like they did every night. My younger sister had just broken up with this guy she’d been seeing and she kept going on and on about it.

“I’d decided that morning I was going to come out because I wanted to do it before I left for theater camp the following week. I kept waiting for a lull in the conversation and I remember my dad had just gotten back from the kitchen with a beer so I figured this would be a good chance to squeeze my way into the conversation.”

Colin looks over at me and I can see that he has tears in his eyes.

“I remember my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up all over Mom’s rose bushes but I managed to get everything out in one breath. My sister, God bless her, came over and hugged me and honestly, I remember thinking in that moment that maybe things would be okay. If my sister was okay with me being gay, maybe everyone else would be.”

He chews his bottom lip and frowns a bit before continuing.

“My mom started crying and then got up and went back in the house. My dad didn’t say anything. He just kept drinking his beer like I hadn’t said anything. My sister went in to check on my mom so it was just me in him.

“Till this day, he still hasn’t acknowledged what I said. It’s been almost four years and my dad still hasn’t acknowledged that his son is gay.”

“What about your mom?”

Colin shrugs his shoulders and sighs.

“Unlike my dad, she’s definitely in the acceptance phase,” he says. “We’ve talked about it a few times and from time to time she will ask if I’m dating anyone. I think she’s hoping I’ll tell her I’m dating some girl.

“I can’t decide what’s worst. Having a parent who won’t even acknowledge your sexuality or having a parent who claims to be okay with it but is secretly hoping you’ll marry a woman and live happily ever after.”

“I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”

“You know, it is what it is and what it is ain’t all bad. I’ve come to accept that my parents, for better or worst, are who they are just as I am who I am. I can’t change them anymore than they can change me and I’m okay with that. It took some time and a shit-load of therapy to reach that point but I refuse to spend the rest of my life being depressed about my parents.”

Colin reaches for the napkin dispenser and yanks out a handful. He used the wad to wipe at his eyes. Colin making peace with his parents is something I don’t know if I’d be able to do. If my dad or Everett or Keisha turned their back on me, I’d be devastated. I don’t think I’d be able to handle a rejection of that magnitude.

And just like that, the icy wall I’d built between myself and Colin has officially melted. Admittedly he’s not so bad. In fact, if he were my age and not living on the other side of the country, I could see us being friends.

“Hey,” he says. “I’m starving and that breakfast burrito looks super yummy. I think I’m gonna grab something.”

I look down at what’s left of my lunch and say, “Hey, you’re ore than welcome to have the rest. My dad makes the best breakfast burritos but they’re huge and I can never finish it.”

“I appreciate the offer but I’m vegan,” he says. “Nasty little habit I picked up on the west coast.”

“Look, I can handle you being gay. I can even handle you shopping at Old Navy. But veganism is something I cannot abide.”

“Well gosh darn. I thought we were gonna be friends.”

We both start laughing. Colin gets up and grabs his bag.

“Well, Tristan, thank for letting me sit with you. Hope I haven’t cramped your style too much.”

“Well thanks for keeping me from eating alone,” I say.

“Happy to oblige.”

Colin looks down at his face.

“I’ll see you in class,” he says. “I think I’ll stop by and see Ms. Faragher.”

I make a face and ask, “Why do you want to see her?”

“Because not only is she my favorite teacher,” he says, “She’s also the one who encouraged me to pursue a theater degree. I know a lot of people think she’s the devil incarnate but she’s really kind when you get to know her.”

“Well, I don’t hate her,” I say. “But she did give me a C which is absolutely unforgivable.”

“Well, I would sympathize but I got an A in her class.”

“You know, I was about to forgive you for the whole veganism thing but you’re officially dead to me.”

We both laugh again and then Colin waves me goodbye before heading for the exit.

Yeah – it’d be nice to have someone like him to hang out with. No offense to Keisha or Finn but I’d like to make a few more friends before graduation.

Too bad he’ll be leaving to go back to California tomorrow.


Copyright © 2020 imperfect _pisces; All Rights Reserved.
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Who would have guessed Colin was a local guy? Although he sees his coming out experience as negative, there would be a line wanting to swap places with him.

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Well maybe he is not evil!  BUT, I'll reserve judgement!  And no, I did not think he was a local boy!

Great intrigue in the chapter!  Thank you imperfect-_ pisces!  BTW are you really a pisces?  Certainly creative!! :)


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14 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

Well maybe he is not evil!  BUT, I'll reserve judgement!  And no, I did not think he was a local boy!

Great intrigue in the chapter!  Thank you imperfect-_ pisces!  BTW are you really a pisces?  Certainly creative!! :)


Thank you, as always, for you feedback. And yes, I am a Pisces. 2-24 is my birthday. For better or for worst, I embody all the Pisces traits.


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