My back has a couple of them.They’re reminders of what ignorance combined with power can do.The scars were the only gifts I could remember my father ever giving me.
There was this kid at school, his name was Dustin.On his wrists were some gnarly scars that had to have had quite a story.It certainly looked like he’d given those scars to himself.But why?Why would someone do something like that to themselves?The mystery was very attractive to a loser like me.I’d never be mysterious.
Dustin Smith was a riddle wrapped in an enigma, as the saying goes.I’d have loved to figure out what had happened in his life that had so tortured him that he saw cutting his wrists all up as the best possible solution.I’d have loved to talk to him, discover the sensitive soul I just knew was hiding in there behind the tough exterior.I could sense that he was a kindred spirit, and yet, there was an element of danger about him as well.I just wanted to have one conversation with him.I wanted to get close - like a moth to a flame.Just one problem with that…
“Hey jagoff!Watch where the fuck you’re walking!”
“Sorry Roberts!” I cried.I’d been so busy admiring the tall handsome redheaded young man with the tough guy scars walking next to him that I’d run right into my worst nightmare once again.I swear!How on earth did Billy Roberts manage to surround himself with such awesome people to be friends with?How could they put up with him?
“I swear, the kids around here are getting more annoying by the day,” Roberts said as Dustin walked along with him down the hall.“I can’t wait to get out of here.”
I sighed.Look at them – two six foot tall seniors.They had no worries.They didn’t have to worry about anything.They didn’t even look back at the scrawny tenth grade dork they’d left in their wake.Did Billy Roberts ever worry about anything in his life?Who would possibly stand up to someone who could be so quick with his insults and sarcastic wit?He could destroy somebody with just his mouth, and it would happen so fast they wouldn’t even know what happened to them.He was a certified genius, genuine math wizard, undefeated poker champion, team statistician for just about every guys’ sport that kept a score, and there were rumors he could retell the stats from any baseball game he’d ever watched. There was something odd about him, like he was too smart for his own good or something.I certainly wouldn’t describe the guy as popular, but somehow he was always surrounded by popular people.He was always hanging out with someone like Dustin Smith, or Brett Reilly, or Bobby Rush the school’s superstar athlete.To be so smart and be one of the hottest boys in school?And then to have such a nice guy like Reilly as your boyfriend?It wasn’t fair!I hated his stinking guts, and he didn’t even bother to know my name.
Anyway, there was no getting to Dustin without going through Billy Roberts.There were rumors going around school about Dustin too.He was a legend on the baseball field.He’d won the batting title for the whole district as a freshman.And everyone knew the numbers were accurate because that goddamn Billy Roberts was the team statistician.And then in his sophomore year it all fell apart.He turned goth or something and then he disappeared from school when he was in tenth grade.When he came back, he was all clean cut and straightened out, with the only indication that something had gone horribly wrong in his life being the scars on his wrists.There was always something about him, like a haunted look in his eyes.I knew that look.I’d seen it in the mirror looking back at me.It was the look of a kid who’d been through too much and didn’t know what to do with it all.
There were other rumors too.These were rumors that were so obscene and dark that they were only whispered in the deepest, darkest places.These rumors were even darker than the rumors about his father abusing him.Rumors so shocking that I barely believed they could be true – rumors of a secret life, a life of such dirty and illicit activities that they couldn’t possibly be real.Rumors about a park - and gay sex for money.
Like I said, they couldn’t possibly be true.Someone like Dustin Smith, star athlete, getting caught up in a gay prostitution scandal?No way!But then…He did disappear for a year.Maybe he’d gone to juvenile hall or something?It was all so mysterious.I wanted to know more.
I was still thinking about Dustin Smith as my class finished up gym class.I managed to avoid being persecuted for a change and it was an uneventful class.I even managed to get changed from my gym clothes to my school clothes without being messed with.That was the good and bad thing about being the ‘special one’ like my mom talked about – you never knew when some jerk would get a burr up his behind about something and decide to smear a queer.I was thankful for the reprieve, because my school lunch hadn’t quite agreed with me and I ended up spending some time on the toilet using it for the purpose it was originally intended.
As I sat there, I looked at the graffiti on the door in front of me.It was the usual high school garbage, but then I noticed the latest addition.
“Aidan has AIDS”
“At least get my name right,” I sighed.As I finished up, I could hear the senior boys begin filling the locker room.I finished up my business and hoped to quietly sneak out.Unfortunately, my gym bag was right in the middle of Roberts and Dustin.
“Whose crap is this?” a shirtless Billy asked.
“It’s mine…” I said softly.I could barely contain myself enough to answer.Right next to Billy, Dustin Smith had removed his shirt and his pants and he was standing there in just his underwear!My god!It was like looking at a sculpture!He was amazing!I mean, he was a little thinner than I’d expected him to be under his clothes, like he’d never been properly fed, but still…I’d never seen something so beautiful in my life.His briefs did little to hide the huge bulge he had between his legs.Wow!I wanted to just drop to my knees right there in front of everyone and experience that beast for myself.And yeah, while we’re at it, Billy was breath-taking without his shirt on too.His chest and belly were naturally smooth.He was slender and not too muscular, but he was fit and looked to be in very good shape.I was disappointed.I guess I wanted him to be gangly and covered with acne or something.That was the first time I ever noticed the insulin pump.It barely registered with me that the Billy Roberts beneath his clothes had a different story than the one I’d built around the guy.Being diabetic must have sucked.I almost felt sorry for him, but then he opened his big stupid mouth.
“Dude, don’t you have class or something?” Billy asked, shaking me from my fantasies.
“Y… Yeah…” I said.I could feel my dick lurch in my pants.
“Then… maybe you should quit staring at us like a creep and go,” Billy suggested.
“Yeah…Sorry…” I said meekly.I grabbed my bag and kept my eyes glued to the floor as I fled the locker room as more and more senior boys began exposing way too much male flesh.At the door I bumped into Brett Reilly, running late as usual.
“Whoa, watch where you’re going Aiden,” he laughed.
“Sorry…” I replied.
“Hey, don’t forget, the Alliance meeting is today in Miss Winston’s room.”
“I know,” I replied.I raced to Mr. Hartley’s class and made it just in the nick of time.I must confess, I have no idea what we talked about in that class because I was thinking of nothing but Dustin Smith and what I’d seen of him in that locker room.I didn’t know if I was going to make it home before I had to relieve the tension which had built up in my pants.
It was all a fantasy though, and nothing more.I would never get any closer to that guy than I had in that locker room.
The school day ended with extra-curricular time once a week on Thursdays.All the various clubs could meet during that time.Mr. Hartley’s classroom would play host to the chess club.Some clubs only met once a month, like the LGBTQ Alliance which met in Miss Winston’s room.The club was a so-called “safe space” where people like me could get together for some support.Everyone knew Miss Winston was in a long-term relationship with her “roommate,” even though they never officially revealed they were a couple.I felt sorry for them.They grew up a generation too soon.They weren’t cowards like Billy Roberts, who had no reason to hide who he was.They just grew up in an era when they couldn’t truly exist as they were meant to be because of people’s hatred for things they didn’t understand.I’d been reluctant to come to my first meeting.Not because of being labeled a queer, because god knows that ship had sailed by the time I hit puberty.No, I was afraid it would be some kind of hook-up thing.But it wasn’t that at all.It was very well organized and super supportive.It was nice to be able to sit down with people who understood what it was like to be queer in our school.It was the one place where I truly felt like I belonged.
Doug Sanders was our president, and he started the meeting precisely on schedule.We all knew our vice president, Brett Reilly, would be late.He was never on time for anything, and he didn’t disappoint us.He always sat on Miss Winston’s desk.He was the person in the club I respected the most.Even though everyone knew he and Billy were a couple, Brett never said anything about their relationship until Billy came out.I admired the respect he had for his boyfriend, even while I thought Billy was a no-good coward who didn’t deserve respect for putting Brett in that position.
“Aiden,” Doug said, “You have a little trouble yesterday in the locker room?”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” I replied.
“What happened?” Reilly asked.
“If Aiden isn’t comfortable talking about it, I’d rather…”
“No it’s cool,” I said.“Couple of guys thought it’d be funny to stick my head in the toilet.”
“Dude, not cool!” Reilly exclaimed.“Who were these fuckers?”
“Language, Mr. Reilly,” Miss Winston rebuked.
“Sorry, Miss Winston,” Reilly replied.“Who were these assholes?”Miss Winston just shook her head.
“Guys, it’s nothing…”
“Yes it is something,” Reilly replied.“Dude, these guys weren’t just fucking around with you.You could have been hurt, or worse!I know reporting these idiots won’t do shit in this school, but you can talk to us. There are ways of dealing with these dickheads that won’t involve anybody getting in trouble with the principal.”
“Mr. Reilly,” Miss Winston said.“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you threaten your fellow students and remind all of you that this is supposed to be a safe space for everyone, even people who don’t understand or agree with us.What Aiden has experienced is bullying at its worst and I will see to it that something is done, but we can’t allow this Alliance to become a place where others are threatened, even if they’ve threatened and bullied you.You can’t return violence for more violence.That won’t solve anything.It won’t change hearts and minds.”
“And what is the ‘something’ you’re going to do?” Reilly asked.
“That’s none of your concern Mr. Reilly.”
Reilly scoffed and turned to me.“Dude, see me after school.I’ll take care of it.”
After the meeting ended and it was time to go to our buses, Reilly grabbed me by the arm and kept me in the room while everyone else left.
“What’s this asshole’s name?” he asked.
“Look…I appreciate you wanting to help, but it’s really okay.”
“Don’t defend this prick.If one of us is being bullied all of us are.He might as well have stuffed my head in the toilet with you.Now who is it?”
“He’s not a bully…He’s scared!He apologized to me.He’s afraid I’m going to rat him out.”
Reilly squinted his eyes at me.“You fuck him or something?”
“Not exactly,” I replied.
Reilly sighed.“Closet case, huh?Well, I know a thing or two about dealing with those.Look, just tell me the kid’s name.I’m not going to hurt him.I might not even talk to him.”
“The Bowden kid?” Reilly laughed.
“Bowman… Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Who does he think he’s fooling?” Reilly laughed.“Dude, don’t worry.I’ll talk with him.”
“You’re not gonna hurt him?”
Reilly laughed even more.“Do you like having your head stuck in a toilet?”
“Do you want it to stop?”
“Yeah, but he’s…”
“Then leave it to me.Trust me, okay?”
“What are you going to do to him?”
“I have my ways,” Reilly replied.“You better get to your bus, Jackson.”
“Okay…” I started to walk away but then I stopped.This might be my one chance to be alone with Reilly.“One thing though…”
“Shoot,” Reilly replied.
“It’s just…Well… You and Billy…”
There were so many questions I had about the two of them, but I only had time for one.“Why did you let him keep it a secret for so long?” I asked.
Reilly smiled.“Why’d you want to protect Tyler Bowman for so long?”
“I don’t want him to get hurt,” I replied.
“There’s your answer,” Reilly replied, as serious as I’d ever seen him.“When you love somebody, you’d do anything to keep them safe, even if it’s something you don’t want to do.I didn’t want to keep it a secret, but Billy needed me to do it, so I did because I love him.”
“I don’t love Tyler,” I insisted.“I just don’t want to see him get hurt.”
Reilly just smiled.“Better go catch your bus, Jackson.Don’t worry, I’ll take care of Tyler.”
I just barely made it to the bus in time to get a ride home.It wasn’t a long trip, but it wasn’t one I wanted to try walking.Our school was created out of a merger of a couple of smaller schools around the Monongahela valley.Most of the kids were from middle class families like mine.I lived in a little hamlet called Monongahela, named after the dirty green and brownish colored river that flowed through our town and north toward Pittsburgh where it merged with the Allegheny to form the Ohio River.There were the poor kids, they mostly came from Donora.There was something of a rivalry between the Donora kids and the Monongahela kids, since we started in separate elementary schools in our own towns and didn’t merge together until junior high school.Mon City kids tended to look at Donora kids as poor white river rat trash types, and Donora kids looked at Mon City kids as stuck up jerks.Both conceptions had a little bit of truth and a little bit of ignorance to them.Take Reilly, for instance.He was a Donora kid, but he was probably one of the richest kids in school.He didn’t act like it though.
Once I got home, I got to work on my homework after I took care of a little personal business involving some hand lotion, a couple of tissues, and visions of Dustin Smith.I felt a lot better afterward!Miss Winston and Mr. Hartley always gave the toughest homework assignments, but I finished with enough time to enjoy some television before mom got home from work.
“You have a nice day at school today?” she asked.
“Yeah.Hey, I want to apologize for the way I acted yesterday.I didn’t mean to act like such a jerk to you.”
“It’s okay,” mom replied.“You’re at the age where raging at your parents is the expected default setting.”
“I don’t mean to act like a douchebag.”
“I know.You’ll get control of yourself with time.You’re already on your way.Remember when you told me you were gay?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me!” I laughed.
“You thought I was going to be so angry with you, you had it all built up in your head how everything was going to go.You were yelling at me for not accepting you for who you were before you even told me you were gay,” mom laughed.“And all along I already knew you were gay and had accepted it a long time ago.”
“God, I was such a drama queen!” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Was?” mom replied.
“I only yell at people who deserve it now,” I protested.
“If you say so,” mom teased me.“I hope today was a better day at school.”
“It was,” I replied.“We had our Alliance meeting today.I don’t know what I’d do without them.I’d be lost.”
Mom smiled and pulled me closer to her so that I could lean against her as we watched television together.I felt safe as she put her arm around my shoulders and held me close to her.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I'd love to know what you thought, and if you can leave a comment I'd really appreciate it!
What will happen now that Brett has taken an interest in "helping" Aiden with his Tyler problem?