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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Luke Hanson's Mind & Punishment: A Teen in Despair - 3. Chapter 3 - A Couple of Outings

Monday 8:55am - Luke


 

Monday at Saunders is usually quiet, which is good because I can tell you about who whole 'gay thing'. I'm calling it my gay story because, as already mentioned, it was the start of a new chapter in my life. My sexuality went from something I was slightly aware of to everyone being completely aware of.

And it happened overnight!

First, I gotta put the new stock on the shelf, which came in early this morning.

"Don't forget to mark down those mallets, Luke; I'd like them shifted by the end of this month; we have a new supplier. The reviews have been shocking on those." Lee's Dad called from behind the counter. I was up the other end of the store wrestling with some plastic wrapping, trying to get six bottles of drain cleaner out.

"Sure, Derek, I'm on it in five!" I hollered back.

Saunders Ironmongery was a smallish store located on the edge of town. It had been in Lee's family for around eighty years. His Great Grandfather opened it after the war seeing an opportunity to supply the community with stuff they had not been able to get hold of during the years before. Derek would say it was an old-fashioned-looking place that 'had character'. In fact, it looked like little had changed in that eighty years if you ask me.

Lee had decided to stay on at school, and I often saw him in the afternoons after he'd finished. He'd often pop in to see me as he lived on the next road with his parents. At least travel costs were low for Derek.

Margaret, Lee's Mum, didn't work in the store; she refused. Instead, her days were spent watching QVC and gossiping with her friends on the phone. I think Derek liked the fact she was a bit of a traditional Housewife. Dinner was always on the table in the evenings, and the house was always clean. It was clear that out of the three of us, Lee, or should I say, his family were the wealthiest. But all the time Taz, Lee and I had been best friends, we never judged each other on how rich or poor our parents were. I mean, sure, we knew that Taz's house was entirely run down, but Lee and I still saw him as equal. He was our mate, and mates stick together. Unlike some of the shallow-minded bastards I used to come across at school who saw a poorer kid as easy prey to bully.

Anyway, I've gone entirely off-topic. Let me get these things on the shelf, and I'll be right with you.

~

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~

I made Derek and myself some tea and brought it to the counter area, placing Derek's next to the till. I stood for a moment watching on the CCTV screen as a couple of customers wandered around browsing.

"I'm think gonna take lunch Derek, okay with you?"

"Sure, Luke, oh, can you pick me up a bagel and an iced coffee, save me going out in this heat. You don't mind do you?"

"Yeah, sure, back soon," I said with a smile.

Coming from behind the counter, I headed towards the door and stepped out into the midday sun. It was so hot, even for this time of year - late July. Quite spookily, too, it was quiet, and I did wonder if the heat was keeping people locked away in their homes and offices. It was just a mission to function. Me, a sweater even in cool weather, was soaked by the time I reached the bakers on Foley Street, a compact road lined with cobble stones and housing essential shops for everyday living and eating.

I went in and placed my order, worshipping the aircon, which was blowing ice cold air directly from above.

"What can I get you, Love?" The familiar lady asked as I stood motionless, looking up, my skin now drying."

"Hey Doreen, uh, I'll have a bagel, one iced coffee for Derek, a ham and cheese roll, and a diet Coke please?"

"Derek forgot his Lunch again?" Doreen asked, grinning. I just smiled back to confirm, yeah probably.

I had to move several times out from under the blowing air as people kept coming in, obviously from local businesses where they worked. Plus, I imagined the odd pensioner coming to get their daily load of bread but could not prove it.

"A couple of milks, please, Doreen," I called as she was just about to place the coffee on the counter. Instead, she took an about-turn, grabbed two little milk portions from the box, and then placed everything down.

"Nine-pound twenty, please Luke. Oh and tell Derek to set a reminder on his phone, it will be cheaper," she said with a little giggle.

I tapped my debit card on the terminal and winked at her before picking up my items. As I went out the door in a semi-rush, I somewhat dramatically smashed into another person who seemed to appear out of nowhere, narrowly avoiding scolding this poor lad. Thankfully the coffee lid had held firm around the cup, or it would have gone all over him. 

Speaking of him, who happened to look as apologetic as I sounded, carried on his way, perhaps too hungry to get annoyed with my clumsiness. He was only in my direct sight for the briefest of moments, but in that few seconds of chaos, I recognised a smell on him which took me back to a place I had not visited for over a year - the fairground. The memory caused a smile to form on my face as I began the walk back to work, where Derek would be eagerly awaiting his coffee.

~

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~

"You okay, Luke, you look like you're in love?" Derek asked as I dreamily placed his coffee and bagel on the counter.

"What? Oh, no, don't be silly," I replied quickly, returning to the present. "But I almost gave someone third-degree burns with your coffee."

"Huh, how?"

"Never mind. I'll be out back, eating this," I said, holding up my roll. Then, picking up my diet Coke, I made my way out to the stock room and pulled up a box to sit on.

So now I'm alone, I can FINALLY tell you what the deal was with my now, rather public sexuality.

Even by today's standards of being gay not really meaning anything to most people; growing up in a small town can do strange things to your perception of risk. I start my story probably leading you to believe I had a clue what I felt just four short years ago. The truth is, of course, I didn't. I just knew small-town syndrome existed, so I felt obligated to convince myself that I was straight. This was even though I knew I had an underlying conflict with my sexuality that stemmed from getting caught in a kissing incident-cum-experiment with another boy by my Music teacher when I was thirteen. While his family responded to the incident with outrage, mine responded with shrugged shoulders, but I still felt uneasy about the whole thing, thinking I would be in serious trouble with my life going forward. 

You've probably already established in the last sentence that I was essentially outed, at thirteen, by my Music Teacher. There was no choice in the matter. No sensitivity from her, she just phoned our parents and said what had happened like I imagined she would have had we got into a fight. 

From a trauma perspective, I'm glad I was on the younger side of teenage life. Had it happened perhaps when I was seventeen, I would have been in a much more emotionally rocky place. But although scared and driverless in my mind, I managed to get past the fact my world had changed forever. 

From that day to around Seventeen, I attempted to avoid my sexuality after this experiment. However, I constantly found myself suffering because I did have crushes on boys, which I tried to fight, thinking it was wrong, even though I knew deep deep down there was nothing wrong with who I was. This led to me continuously returning home, holding in this secret that slowly began to unfold ― I was into boys. Because yes, I made a stupid mistake that day and for years after. Even though my parents didn't give a shit when they found out I had kissed another boy in school, I still denied to them I was into boys. So I blame myself for being so weak and ashamed. But as my Dad said when I was caught AGAIN red-handed...

'You do realise your Mum, and I knew years ago, remember?'

Before that conversation with my Dad, just under a year ago, I'd never actually come out to my Mum, which I'll always regret. Why? Because now I am in this limbo where, yeah, she always knew, but neither I, nor she had openly spoken about it. I'd loved to have told her to her face but never had the courage. 

In between my parents knowing, and then really knowing a second time... or at least my Dad anyway, I used social networking as a gateway to reveal my secret. I felt that I could never come out to my friends or family in my town, so I began to spend late nights on the internet. For two reasons, really. Firstly I could be who I wanted, and second, it kept me from committing to anything in real life. Not because I don't crave affection because, Jesus, I do, but because I have a strange relationship with sex. Like all things sex. I just can't. I chicken out. I run, I squirm, I avoid. And this all comes down to that day my music teacher outed me to not only my parents but the boy's parents and, in that case, most of our town.

It's complicated! But I had an outlet to express my sexuality ― even if no one I knew was aware I used the internet for this purpose. I was sixteen years old when I found the website called MyLads, a social network for closeted young gay guys. I began to use this nightly, changing my bio to state that I was bisexual, then straight curious, to gay and back again. Though I was still too humiliated at sixteen to come out to my truly to my family, my fear of rejection was shadowed by the acceptance I'd received from Taz and Lee, whom I told three months into my sixteenth. This was a sort of liberation for me ― I had a new sense of confidence I never had as a closeted child. I figured there would come a time when I would be confident enough to come out to my Dad, which I did mere months later. When that time came, it was YET AGAIN, not by choice or because of my confidence. I left my computer on My Lads while having a shower. 

My Dad... you fill in the blanks! 

Once I got out of the shower and found a hot up of tea right by my computer screen, I felt my life crumble into pieces.

I ran downstairs.
 
"No. I promise I'm not gay." I burst into tears ― the fear of rejection stupidly in my mind, even when I should have known the opposite the first time four years ago. My Dad was really sensitive and played his cards so well with me. Within an hour, I was pacified and calm. We went for a long drive that night, I remember. My head against the window, looking out, thinking. Him just letting us sit in gentle silence. He knew what to do. He knew that it was me who had to start the conversation in my own time.

As we drove, not really heading away from anywhere, more around in circles, my confidence did grow, and I did talk to him. It was a ceremonial spilling of my guts to him, and he never butted in or made any judgements. He just listened. Then out of the blue, as if we were celebrating something, he asked...

"Hey, wanna go to the fairground?"

I still remember smiling that night in the car when he asked. "Yeah," I'd said, my eyes lighting up. We went on loads of lame rides, shot guns, hit coconuts and won a Goldfish. But my strongest memory was of a boy I'd spoken to who operated one of the rides. Yeah, he was a traveller... or a gypsy as some would recognise the more familiar name, but despite a 'Jock' look about him, he was so gentle, so polite, and built like a boxer despite him being no older than me at the time. And though our interaction had merely come about because I'd dropped my phone inside the ghost train somewhere which he went to fetch, I made every excuse to prolong a conversation enjoying the way he looked at me, the way he smelled, and the way touched my shoulder to tell me he'd found it. 

I'd gone back the following night to look for him on my own, but not knowing his name and feeling too stupid to ask anyone else who worked there, I left, deflated, never seeing him again. Until, of course, today, just perhaps. I mean, it could have been him, it was the same very unique scent i remember from the time at the fairground. If only I'd just stopped, gone back into the bakers or at the very least tried to extend the words in my apology so he would turn around, enabling me to get a better look at him. But no. I just walked away because I was worried about Derek's ice coffee getting warm.

Am I a hero or a bloody idiot?!
 

Copyright © 2022 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Trying a different style and a couple of new things in this book and my only benchmark on how that is going is you, my loyal readers. So I have a small favour. Please do click a like if you're enjoying the story and please do recommend the book. If you have a thought or comment I'd be made up to hear what you think. All feedback is relished and of course I do love hearing your ideas, opinions and banter. Many thanks, folks! Now, let go forth on to the next chapter :) 

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Not sure just what to make of this other than it would seem that Luke may suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder as well, while not a licensed medical practitioner...I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express once...

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I do have some experience with ADHD.  Luke sounds like he has many of those traits.  Gradually some of the pieces are beginning to fit.

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