The Awakening #2

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Twelve years old. I sat at the kitchen table working on my comic strip.

The phone rings. My mother answers it in the living room, then calls out to me in the dining room, where I sat engrossed in work on my comic strip.

"L, it's T."

T was a friend from my old grammar school. We hadn't spoken since I'd transferred from our grammar school during the summer. While I told friends that I'd left because my parents felt the other school was better, that wasn't the real reason. The truth was that I'd spent the previous year being picked on relentlessly by B.

B was a transfer student from the city. We'd been friendly, if not quite friends, the first year he spent in our class. But something changed the following year. Like all bullies, who at heart are cowards, B chose to torment the smallest, quietest, most vulnerable person he could find. In this case, unfortunately, that was me.

Just after the school year started, he came up to me on the playground and asked if I was gay. As this was the late 70s, and as I was only twelve, I didn't know what he meant. But I knew from the smirk on his face that it was something bad. When I replied that I wasn't, he replied that's what gay people always say. (A deep thinker was ol' B.)

That set the tone for the rest of the year. B made it a point to make my life miserable. I wound up missing nearly 40 days that year, and my grades suffered accordingly. While a few sycophants joined B in the ridicule, most of the other students simply drifted away, lest they be tarred with same brush. T was one of the few who didn't avoid me.

I picked up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Hey L! Long time no see! Wanna come over? I joined our soccer team, and I could really use a goalie to practice against."

This was curious, as I was quite possibly the world's least coordinated 13-year-old. I'd just come off a stint on the disabled list, courtesy of my discovery that I needed to wear glasses. Unfortunately, acquiring said knowledge was the result of doing battle with a wayward pop fly during an intramural game. The ball, alas, was the victor in this particular skirmish, as it proceeded to bounce off, in order: a) my left cheek, just below my eye, b) my knee, and c) my right foot, which, with admirable if misplaced enthusiasm, kicked it over the fence for one of the more unlikely home runs baseball is likely to see. I was left with two black eyes, a limp, and bruised pride.

But hope springs eternal, so off I went to meet T at the reservoir near his house. We caught up on the goings-on of my old classmates in between my frequent trips to retrieve the ball from its latest trip to the drink after I muffed yet another shot between the wickets.

As T tracked down my latest errant toss back to him, his real agenda came into focus.

"Hey, do you remember B?"

"Uh, yeah."

"I was wondering... you know what he said about being gay?"

"Uh-huh?"

He nudged the ball in my direction.

"Well... you know that's OK, right?"

Hmm. Is T trying to tell me something? Maybe he needs someone to confide in?

I tapped the ball back to T.

"I guess."

The ball came back my way.

"Good. Good. 'Cause, you know... well, I was talking with B and Th... and we wanted you to know that we don't care if you are."

This again. I picked up the ball and sighed.

"But I'm not, T."

"Okay... but it's okay if you are."

At this point I was more puzzled than angry.

"Why does everyone think that about me? How come they don't say it about anyone else?"

"I don't know, L. I mean... like with girls."

"Yeah? I like girls."

"Well, yeah, but you don't really talk to them the same way."

Now I was baffled.

"The same way as who? You? You guys would say all kinds of crap about them behind their backs, then be all nice when you see them. I don't do that, so I'm gay?"

"No, no. I mean...you talk to them like -

"People?"

He laughed.

"No, it's like... it's not like you're afraid of them...

It's like... you idolize them, L."

Whoops.

My heart started to pound. I could feel my face turning red, and rage boiling inside me. And fear. Why?

"Yeah. Whatever you say, man. See ya."

I turned and tried to kick the ball as far as I could into the reservoir. I couldn't even manage that, which only enraged me further. In a fury, I stormed off.

T ran after me.

"L! Wait! I'm sorry!"

I whirled.

"Get the f*** away from me! Asshole!"

"C'mon! What did I say? Come back! I'm sorry!"

My chest felt tight, and my eyes burned. I walked for hours, trying to forget what he said.

Even if I didn't know why.

Yet.

5 comments:

Kelly on July 14, 2011 at 8:18 PM said...

T was - and is - very perceptive (even if we didn't realize *how* perceptive at the time). This isn't the only time he picked up on something no one else did - and not just with me. He clearly missed his calling as a therapist. :c) (Oh, and we're still good friends, incidentally.)

Thanks for the heads-up about the comments. I'll take a look. I'm a Machead, so I wonder if that might be the culprit. :c)

== K

== Larry

Cynthia Jane on July 15, 2011 at 2:45 PM said...

Now that comment went right through. Looks like you fixed it.

Kelly on July 15, 2011 at 4:09 PM said...

Oh Mac, why did I ever doubt you? ;c)

You were right, Cynthia - it wasn't the Mac. I just needed to tweak my Blogger comment settings. Thanks for the heads-up. Also, you're the third person this week who mentioned how much they like Firefox. I can only access my bank's website through Firefox, so I may give it a shot for Blogger too.

And *of course* it was a girl who figured it out. Was there ever any doubt? ;c)

== K

Cynthia Jane on July 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM said...

I currently use three different browsers ... Safari ( for Blogger ), Firefox, and Camino. If one doesn't do the job, then try one of the others.

One of my sons is a Mac technician, so I have about as much of everything there is that Mac offers. The lack of viruses is the biggest thing to me. And they are so much easier to use over windows.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Hugs,

Cynthia

Kelly on July 18, 2011 at 9:55 PM said...

Camino... I'll have to look into that one. Thank you for the tip!

Hope you had a good weekend as well, Cynthia! :c)

== K

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