Tyler hadn’t spoken to me all week.In fact, he seemed to be going out of his way to avoid me entirely.I didn’t think much of it, but then I started to wonder if maybe my conversation with Reilly had something to do with it.I’d asked him not to hurt Tyler, but Reilly was a wild card.I managed to get Tyler alone after history class.
“Hey Ty!Wait up!”
When Tyler saw me a look of panic crossed his face.“Just stay away from me, Aiden!I won’t bother you anymore!”
“What are you talking about?What’s going on?”
“You didn’t have to send a couple of goons after me,” Tyler said.
“Goons?!?” I protested.
“Dude, Reilly and Smith got me after school the other day.They said they’d do worse than stick my head in a toilet if I didn’t knock it off with you!”
“They didn’t hurt you, did they?”
“They didn’t have to!Dude, I don’t know where you get off sending a hit squad after me!I don’t want any trouble.Just stay away from me.I promise I’ll leave you alone!”
“But that’s not what I want…” I said as he practically ran away from me and off to his next class.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Jackson?” Mr. Hartley asked as I stood there like a dweeb.I’d kind of forgotten he was even in the room and had heard the whole conversation.
“Nah…You wouldn’t understand,” I sighed.
Mr. Hartley sighed in frustration.“It’s like watching a bad soap opera…Jackson, come here.”
I approached Mr. Hartley’s desk.The senior students were beginning to file in so he pulled me close to him and spoke quietly to me, putting his hands on my shoulders.
“Do you want to have people walk all over you for your entire life?” he asked quietly.
“N… No…” Mr. Hartley mocked back to me.“What kind of answer is that?Show some courage for once.You keep acting the way you are, and you’re never going to amount to anything in this world of ours.It’s vicious and cruel and only the strong survive.Do you want to be a wimp and a loser for the rest of your life?”
“No,” I replied more firmly.
“You want little closet cases like Mr. Bowman to use you like trash?”
“No,” I insisted.
“Then grow a backbone and start standing up for yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you,” Mr. Hartley said sternly.“You let people like him use you, you’ll never have any respect for yourself, and no one will have respect for you.You understand what I’m saying to you?”
“Yeah…I just…I don’t know how.”
Mr. Hartley let me go and put his head in his hands.“Why do I do this to myself?” he mumbled to himself.“Just get to your next class.I don’t know why I bother.”
I hurried to leave the classroom, but could hear Mr. Hartley as he began to corral the seniors’ attention.“Okay Mr. Genius, why don’t you enlighten us with your infinite wisdom by telling us about what you learned about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in your homework last night?That is, if you have the time to grace us with your superior knowledge…”
I don’t know who he was talking to like that, and frankly, I didn’t care.I was determined to find someone who I knew would be roaming the halls after the bell rang to start class.I found him at his locker.
“Hey Reilly!” I snapped.
“Hey dude,” he replied, all smiles.
“What did you do to Tyler?” I asked.
Reilly scowled.“He been a problem lately?”
“No, he hasn’t been a problem!He’s been so scared out of his mind thinking that I hired some goons to beat him up he hasn’t even talked to me!”
“Hired goons?” Reilly smiled mischievously.“I like that!I’ve never been big enough to be a hired goon before.”
“Reilly!I’m serious!You scared him so much he won’t even look at me!”
“Hey, have you had your head stuffed in a toilet lately?No, I don’t think so.Tyler’s a tool, dude.You’re better off without him in your life.”
“How would you like it if someone said that to you about Billy?”
Reilly smiled again.“Who hasn’t said that to me at one time or another?Billy’s a different animal than Tyler.”
“A different tool, maybe?Guess what?That still makes him a tool!”
Reilly squinted at me.“Okay Jackson.That’s enough.I’ve been nice to you.I even like you a little bit.You’re a cute kid.But if you fuck with Billy, I will destroy you.You think having your head stuffed in a toilet sucked? You ain’t seen nothing.You understand me?”
“Look, I’m just frustrated that you did what you did even though I asked you not to mess with him.”
“No, you told me not to hurt him, and I didn’t!”
“Are you seriously going to do the whole ‘exact words’ routine with me?I think I was pretty clear when I said ‘don’t hurt him’ that would mean don’t intimidate the crap out of him so he wouldn’t even talk to me!”
“Well then why didn’t you just say that?” Reilly protested.
“Oh my god! Are you always this frustrating?” I asked.
“You’d be surprised how often I hear that,” Reilly replied.“But come on!What’s to be frustrated about?You had a problem and I solved it.No more head getting stuffed in the toilet.I’d say mission accomplished.”
“No more head at all is the problem!” I exclaimed.
Brett sighed.“Dude, you can do so much better than Tyler Bowden.”
“Bowman,” I corrected him.
“Whatever!You let a little shit like him push you around, you’re just asking for trouble.”
“You’re the second person to tell me that,” I said, remembering Mr. Hartley’s words,
“Well, it’s true.You think I’m hard to deal with? Wait until life really kicks you in the nuts.You can’t just roll over and let people treat you like crap.If you do, that’s all they’ll ever do to you.How do you think a smaller guy like me who’s on Adderall and has the athletic abilities of a small child got to be so respected around here?I’m not smart.I’m not a jock.But everyone knows you don’t fuck with me, and everyone respects me.Why?It’s because I stand up for myself, and for people like you, and I never, ever back down.If you think it’s ever going to get any easier, I’m sorry.It’s not. How will anybody ever respect you if you don’t respect yourself?You dig?”
“But what if they beat me up?”
“Then you get beat up, you pick yourself up and you keep going!”
“You make it sound easy,” I replied.
“Easy?Dude, I once got the crap beat out of me so bad I pissed my pants.You know what I did?I got back up.Never give up.Never!If you’re tough in here,” Reilly pointed to my chest.“Then there’s nothing anyone can do to you that you can’t overcome.But if you don’t have it in here, then you’ll never overcome anything. You’ll just be a little bitch for the rest of your life.”
“Yeah…” I replied.“I think I understand.You’re pretty smart, Reilly.”
Reilly laughed.“That is probably the first time those words have ever been said.I’m not smart.I’ve just been having this same conversation with a certain someone for years.I’ve rehearsed it enough times I’ve gotten pretty good at it.Anyway, we’re already desperately late for class.You want to just hang out for a while until class is over?I know a place we can hang.”
“You’d want to hang out with me?” I asked.
“Unless you’d rather go to class ten minutes late…”
“No, it’s cool!I just…I can’t believe I’m hanging out with Brett Reilly.”
Reilly laughed.“I’m a regular celebrity.Come on…”
Reilly led me to the balcony of our auditorium and that’s where we stayed for the rest of class.It was very cool to spend time with him.I learned a lot about him.I never knew he was originally from New York City.I never knew his first name was Anthony, or why everyone called him Reilly.
“I don’t know how it started.People just started calling me Reilly when I moved here and it stuck.It’s cool though.It’s like, only people who are my true friends call me Brett.Only my mother calls me Anthony and that’s just when she’s mad at me.”
“I get ‘Aiden Nicolas Jackson’ when my mom is really pissed at me,” I said.“Brett’s an interesting middle name.Where’d your mom come up with that?”
“I was named after somebody,” Reilly replied.“My grandfather was named Tony, that’s where Anthony came from.Brett was the name of some dude my mom knew.They called me Anthony for about a year or so, and then one day my mom just decided that Brett suited me better than Anthony or Tony and that was that.Seventeen years later and I’m still going by my middle name.”
“Do you like your first name?” I asked.
“Anthony?Yeah, it’s okay.I’d think it weird if somebody started calling me that.It doesn’t seem like that’s even my name.Every once in a while a teacher doesn’t get the memo on the first day of school and I have to set them straight.Adults are basically morons.”
“I don’t like my name,” I admitted.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know.I guess I just wish I could be somebody else entirely sometimes.”
“I don’t know.I think you’re a pretty good guy.”
“You barely know me,” I replied.
“I know you’re a fighter.But you let people treat you like crap because you don’t think you deserve to be treated any better.I also know your dad never accepted you for being gay and you and your mom had to move to Mon City to get away from him.”
“How do you know any of that?” I asked.
“Because people are easy to read,” he replied.“Much easier than books.”
“My dad was never happy with me about anything.Being gay was just one more reason for me to hate me.”
“He hurt you pretty bad, huh?That’s why you don’t trust anyone.”
I nodded.“If you can’t even trust your parent how are you supposed to trust anyone else?I’ve still got scars on my back from the night he lost it.I never thought a father would just abandon his kid like that.”
“You’d be surprised how awful parents can be,” Reilly replied.“I’ve never even met my father. My mom never wanted to be a mother and was hoping my grandparents would raise me while she had her big career.Then they died and she was stuck with me.She can write all these great books about parenting, but she’s terrible.”
“My mom’s pretty good,” I replied.“She never expected to be a single mom.She works two jobs just to keep us going.I always feel bad because if I hadn’t been a faggot dad never would have left and she wouldn’t be stuck with me.”
“No!” Reilly insisted.“Don’t you dare blame yourself for what your dad did!It’s his responsibility, not yours.He would have found something to be angry about and leave your mom, regardless of what you might have done.You don’t know, he was probably smacking your mom around when you weren’t there to see it.Guys like that… They’re born losers.There’s this one dad I know, this dude was a complete dick to his whole family.The daughter ran away and the son got the crap beat out of him all the time.The mom was no winner herself, but he was just so abusive and oppressive that she lost every ounce of self-respect she had.His kids had nothing to do with the way he was.He was just an evil dude.”
“Makes you wonder if there’s anyone you can trust,” I said.
“There are people who understand.Everybody reacts to being abused differently.The son of the guy I’m talking about got himself into a lot of trouble and almost killed himself.He’s so wounded he feels like he can’t love anybody because he’s afraid he’ll get hurt again, so he’s shut that part of himself off.Other people, they find ways to cope the best way they know how.”
“And how do you cope?” I asked.
“I act like a goof ball and I only let certain people get close to me.I’m friendly on the outside, but I’m always suspicious of everybody.I’m always waiting for them to disappoint me.”
“So the whole ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude you have is just a front?” I asked.
“Not completely.I really don’t give a fuck about most people,” Reilly replied.“I wish I didn’t care what people think about me as much as I make people think I don’t care.”
“Yeah, I feel the same way.Reilly…Can I call you Brett instead of Reilly?”
He smiled.“I guess so,” he said.“I guess we both could use a friend.And dude, I’m sorry about the whole Tyler thing.I guess I shouldn’t have told him I’d gut him if he did anything to you.Sometimes the New York City in me comes out.”
“It’s cool.I appreciate that you were willing to defend me like that.No one’s ever done anything like that for me before.”
“I was glad to do it.Were you guys tight?”
“I wouldn’t say that.We weren’t exactly close friends in grade school.I don’t even remember how I ended up sucking his dick the first time.It all just sort of happened and then we just got drawn into this weird relationship.I like sucking him, he likes getting sucked, but he’s afraid of what people will think if it goes any further.”
“So you’ve sucked him off, but nothing else?”
“Yeah, that’s all.”
“You’ve never gone any further?He ever suck you off or anything?”
“Nope.Not even a hand job.”
“What a tool!” Brett said.“So you know what you’d like to do when the time comes?You want to pitch or catch?”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on!I knew I wanted to bottom from the time I was ten years old.You think you’d want to top or bottom?”
“I…Wait, you’re the bottom?”
Brett laughed.“Why does everyone look at Billy and think he’s the bottom?Dude, we mix it up a lot, but if I had my way I’d bottom all the time.It’s amazing!”
“Billy’s that good, huh?”
“Billy is awesome!” Brett smiled.“But enough about us.I want to know about you.”
“Oh, I don’t know… I’d like to try everything I guess.It’s all so weird and mysterious right now.I think I’d like to do both, like you.”
Brett laughed.“You won’t have to work to hard to get it.It may seem like it’s never going to happen, but it will.I thought Billy and I would never do it.It seemed like we were just stuck in neutral forever.I was so horny when I was your age I was ready to explode at the slightest touch.Just seeing certain parts of Billy made me have to run off to the bathroom to rub one out.”
“Certain parts, huh?” I asked.
“Oh man, not even those parts.I mean like, the back of his neck where his hair brushes against his collar.His eyes…Or like, his braces when he had them.I loved his braces.I wanted braces so bad when I was younger.”
“You can have mine if you’d like!” I laughed.
“Man, you’re so lucky to have braces.”
“If you say so,” I replied.“I’m just trying to get myself laid.I’m not really worried about it.I just…I knew I didn’t want it to be Tyler.”
“Is there someone you do want it to be?”
“I don’t…Well, there’s somebody I think it would be good with…He’s a senior,” I admitted.
Brett laughed.“Sorry, no.I’m happily married!”
“No, it’s not you.I mean, I think you’d be great but…”
“Oh, well sorry, but Billy’s not available either!”
“Wow, you’re so conceited.It’s not you or your boyfriend!Life isn’t all about you guys!”
“Then who is it?Come on, we’re friends now.Who’s the lucky guy?Is it Dougie?”
“No.I mean, I wouldn’t rule him out.But this guy… No.You’d think it’s stupid.He’s not even gay…”
“Oh, one of those,” Brett laughed.“Dude, don’t get yourself roped into falling in love with someone who will never love you back.”
“Who said anything about love?I just want them to do me.”
Brett laughed.“Wow!You really are a little horn dog!I like that!Okay, so who is this lucky guy?”
“Well,” I blushed.“Like I said, it’s never going to happen…”
“Who is it?” Brett insisted.
Just as I was about to answer the bell rang for class to end.I stood up to leave.
“Oh no!” Brett said, holding my arm.“You’re not getting out of this that easy!Who is it?”
“Okay.It’s… It’s Dustin Smith.”
Brett stopped joking around and suddenly looked as serious as I’d ever seen him.“Oh,” he said.
“I told you it was stupid.”
“No, that’s not stupid at all.What you’re hoping for is actually within your reach if you play your cards right.Dustin would definitely fuck you.You could probably just tell him you want it and he’d do it.But you better be sure you just want sex and not love, because Dustin is the wounded kid I was talking about earlier.So if you’re looking to get laid, you picked a good candidate.But if you want anything more he’s going to break you.”
“What if I just want to get fucked?” I asked.
“If sex is all you want from him, that’s all you’ll get.But you need to be careful.Sex does weird things to you even if you don’t want it to.You go in thinking, ‘oh, I’ll be careful’ or ‘I’m definitely going to use a condom’ and the next thing you know you’re begging for him to shoot his load up your ass.You’re playing with fire with the redhead.Get too close and you will get burned.”
“Would you put in a good word for me?I mean, you’re his friend, right?”
“I’m not sure I’d say that.Remember when I said I once got beat up so bad I pissed my pants?Guess who did it?”
“Are you serious?”
“Dude, I’m always serious,” Brett replied.“People just think I’m being funny.I got too close and I got burned.He almost put me in the hospital and I was just trying to help the guy.Dustin is out of your league, kid.But if you’re willing to play his game, you will get yourself fucked, in more ways than one.”