Chapter 18 – Opening up
Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
Calo kept me company during P.E. as he is nauseas because of a higher dose of meds, while I myself am a but sleepy and feeling uneasy due to my own meds. We’re a bunch of zombies, but at least we’re together.
At least he talked to me most of the day and with the absence of Jimmy and Luke – who have an in-school suspension until Christmas break, the days fly by without any trouble or bullying.
People either ignore me, or they greet me before taking off again. But hey, it’s progress for practically half of our classmates to say hi to me and send me a smile. It’s not like I expect any of them to become my friend and I don’t need them as friends either.
With Calo by my side, I feel good enough. I’m still not a fan of groups and crowds, so his company is more then enough. The lunchbreaks are spent in the company of different girls, and by now even Henry and Menno – who are friends of Libby and decided to sit with us during the morning break.
Then I had a new meeting with Dr. Delgado, and instead of mom driving me, I drove with Lorenzo and Calo, the latter having an appointment of his own at the same time, in the same building.
We agreed to wait for each other and for him to come over to my place and hang out for the day.
So far, we hung out every day since Dr. Delgado told me to confine in Calo. So far, I’ve failed to bring it up.
I don’t want Calo to think I’m even a bigger mess than he thinks already. I don’t want to scare him away. It’s one thing to deal with me while I execute my compulsive behaviour, it’s another to deal with it, while knowing I hate doing it, hate my life, hate myself.
Besides, since I now know Calo’s condition is deteriorating, I’m scared he won’t want to hang out with someone who is depressed too. What if my bad moods, my moments of weakness, trigger his? And vice versa? What if we infect each other with our thoughts, what if one of us sends the other over the edge?
“What’s on your mind today?” Calo asks, sounding a bit amused as he hops inside my room balancing a bowl of popcorn, a bottle of coke and a bag of Maltesers in his hand.
“Nothing.” I mutter, taking the bowl from his hand to give him a chance to properly grab hold of the bottle.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire.” He sings out, flopping on the bed in front of me, handing me the bottle afterwards with his signature smirk on his face. The last couple of days, that smirk, his smiles, his laughs, they seem genuine.
“Are you… happy, right now?” I ask, fiddling with the hem of my shirt. “You seem so cheerful, genuine cheerful.”
“I feel good, lately.” He nods, pushing himself up while sliding backwards to rest his back against the wall. “I was exhausted last week, after my session. But I knew what to expect today and well…” he shrugs, grabbing a handful of popcorn from the bowl. “I just accepted I wasn’t going to tell him anything yet. And today, he seemed fine with that attitude.”
“But you did accept him raising your dose of meds.”
Calo looks cold, but only for a second, then he shrugs once more. “It’s not as if mom or dad would accept me not listening to my new therapist. Dad had to pull some strings to get me in this quick, so they would call me selfish and spoiled if I’d ignore all that Dr. Creepy tells me.”
“Did Lorenzo tell you that I talked to him?”
“What’s with all the questions, Nee?” He nudges me playfully, the smirk back, plastered on his face.
It’s not genuine.
“Can we talk, instead of watching a useless movie?”
“You wanna talk?” The smirk disappears, and he shuffles back and forth awkwardly. “About me?”
“Not about you per se.”
“Answer my question first. Did you know Lorenzo and I talked?”
“I know, yes.” He shrugs. “So, he told you I don’t like myself. What’s new? Why do you want to talk about that?” He seems not to be too happy about the current conversation.
“Why don’t you?”
“Why would I?”
“Are you always answering a question with a question to avoid giving an actual answer?”
“It took Dr. Creepy three meetings to figure that out.” Calo chuckles – again forced. “What is it you wanna know, Nee? I hate playing games.”
“I told… your father… that I’m… unhappy,” I drawl, stuttering a bit. “And I have a, sort of, passive… death wish.”
Calo’s eyes dart all over my face, no hint of a forced or fake smile. He’s all serious, listening to my stuttering without interrupting me.
“He advised me to confine in my best friend.”
“Yes, you. Because he can help me, up until a certain line. He doesn’t know-”
“-what it’s like.” Calo shuffles in his spot, sitting up straighter, taking in a deep breath. “So, dad actually thinks I’m useful for something? Now I’m in need of helping him, help his patient?” Calo spits out, suddenly angry, his hands bawled into fists.
“No, Cay?” I squeak out nervously. “Not to help him out with a patient. But to help me out as your friend.” My voice turned into a whisper, unsure if I’m handling this right. Unsure of how to make Calo focus on us, instead of his feud with his father. “I want to figure out how we can help each other…”
“What do you want to know Nee?” He snaps, throwing his hands in the air. “If it’ll ever get better? Because newsflash, for me, it’ll never stop. It won’t get better. I can’t tell you anything positive…”
“Cay, stop.” I call out loud enough to overpower his words. “I want to help you too, not just me. We’re friends, right? I think of you as my best friend. Sadly, you’re my only… but… I trust you. More than anybody.”
“But I can’t help.” He whines, slumping down a bit.
“You can help me to help you, by telling me why you hate yourself.”
Calo seems to doubt, but when I put my arms around him to pull him against me, he takes in a deep breath.
“I’m a sin,” he whispers sadly. “I’m an abomination to society.”
“No, you’re not!” I whisper in shock. “You’re a blessing. I’ve never met a greater person than you.”
“It’s not okay to be gay… It’s not normal…”
“Why not?” I pinch the skin in his arm angrily. “because it’s not okay to love someone? Because somepeople say it’s wrong?”
“Don’t you believe it’s wrong? You have to know it is wrong…”
“Cay, have you ever really read the bible? Or do you only listen to how others interpret the Bible?”
“I’ve not read it…”
“Okay, listen,’ I pull back and grab his wrists, staring him right in the eye. “Remember that stupid game in pre-school, where one kid would whisper a short story into the ear of the other, and by the end of the line, the whole story was different?”
“Why does that matter?”
“What do you think, happens to a book, that gets translated dozens of times, all by different people, over and over again? You think that story would be the same?”
“That doesn’t mean being gay is right.”
“It does mean it’s not wrong either. It means someone who is against it, made all religious people believe it is. It’s his truth, not mine, not that of thousands of others.”
“Why do you have a passive death wish?” He pulls from my hold, his eyes flickering down towards my lips before they focus on his hand playing with mine.
“Because I feel lonely, I feel like I’m a bother and just like with you, people repeatedly told me I’m not worthy of anything. Everybody would be better off without me in their lives and be able to live normal.”
“That’s bullshit.” Calo whispers with a broken voice. I know I turned his good mood in a bad one and now I miss that genuine smiles and smirks on his face and I regret starting to talk about this. I want to see that smile again. “To me you’re important.” He moves his hand to grab hold of my wrist in a way that makes me nervous. It’s a light touch, and I could pull out any second. But I don’t want to pull away from his hold.
Since when am I this comfortable being touched by someone, without feeling the need to rush towards the bathroom and wash the germs off.
I don’t know if it’s the heat from his hand radiating onto my skin, I don’t know if it’s the way he stares down at my wrist in his hold. I don’t know if it’s the fact I could sit with him for hours in complete silence and still won’t feel bored.
But I just sit there, and eventually, I shuffle closer to snuggle my face against his chest. “Are you willing to tell me what happened that caused you to try and commit suicide?”
I feel him taking in a deep breath, as his arms glide around my shoulder and his chin leans on my head. “Do I have to?”
“If you don’t want to, I’m not forcing you. But I do like to know what happened, so I could help you better.”
He remains silent for a while, and in the mean time, he started playing with a strain of my curly hair in the back of my neck. I listen to his heartbeat, that is a tad bit quicker than I think it should be. I wonder if it’s nerves that caused his heartbeat to raise like that.
I listen to his breathing, that is calm and deep, while his chest rises and falls with every breath he takes.
As a last move to be comfortable, I place my head on his shoulder, enabling me from looking at his face, even though I’m too close to actually see something.
He simply lies down, pulling me with him, fighting back a yawn.
“Okay,” he whispers, pushing some hair away from my face. “I had a boyfriend, Will. We were young, so it wasn’t that special, but both of us knew we liked guys from when we were 14 or whatever.” Calo shuffles some more, his arms now around my shoulders as I repositioned my face back onto his chest.
“One day, some of my classmates found out. They’d seen us kissing and they spread the news that we were gay. Bullying started and for a while, Will and I tried to fight it together, but then Will and his parents moved to the other side of the country, we split up, and I was left behind on my own. I couldn’t take the endless bullying, the name-calling. I missed Will and I just wanted it to end. It’s obvious my condition of being depressed didn’t help either and eventually, I took all my medication at once and it was dad who found me and knew what happened instantly.”
“That’s so sad.” I whisper with a croaked voice, staring up at him, while my finger traces his jawline. “I wish I would’ve been in that school. I’m sure they wouldn’t have had the time to bully you if I would be there as a distraction.”
“If you would’ve been in that school with me, I don’t think Will would ever be in the picture.” Calo finally looks down and makes eye contact.
I carefully smile at him, though it’s hard to smile because I don’t understand what there is about me to like.
“I’m really glad I met you.”
“Likewise, Calo. You turned my whole life around.” I snuggle impossibly closer to him, knowing I feel safe in his arms and I could use a couple of hours of solid sleep. “Will you stay over for the night?”
“Off course I will.” He pecks a feathery light kiss on top of my head and then pulls the cover over us. “I’ll always be there if you want me to.”
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
“Morning honey.” Mom greets me as soon as I hope into the kitchen, only for her to turn around surprised.
First of all, I’m about half an hour early to enter the kitchen, secondly, I didn’t shower yet. Thirdly, I’m still wearing the sweatpants and hoodie I wore when I hung out with Calo.
“Calo was picked up about an hour ago. He didn’t want to interrupt your morning with his presence, said that might be a step too far for you right now.”
“Oh.” And that’s a bit disappointing, though he might be right that things are going a bit fast lately. I’ve stopped organizing my stuff, I apparently stopped washing off any germs after any contact with a human outside of Pyper, mom and dad. I stopped bothering over the dishes whenever I wash my hands. I stopped three habits ever since I met Calo, and him present during my morning might disturb me in a way that I will feel the need to go back to executing them. Calo might throw me off this early in the day, preventing me from staying in school the rest of the day. And since Jimmy and Luke are still suspended, I want to enjoy the bully-free time in school as much as possible.
“He left you a note.” Mom hands me a note with a small smile on her face. “you guys became really close, really quick.”
“He cheers me up and I think I do the same to him.” I do not look at her, missing the smile she sent me, as Pyper sleepily walks into the kitchen, frowning at my presence.
“Are you really in the kitchen before showering?” She asks, yawning shamelessly afterwards. “I haven’t left clothes for you yet.”
“Can you… maybe pick two?” I ask her after reading the note in which Calo tells me he indeed didn’t want to disturb my morning bubble and that he had fun, despite the heavy conversation we had. “So that I can pick one of them?”
“Eh, I guess?” Pyper frowns, her eyes switching between the note, mom and me. “Is this a new attempt?”
“Yes.” I nod, looking up to find both mom and Pyper smiling at me. “I don’t mind the dishes anymore, I don’t organize my stuff. Calo touched my wrist and I didn’t run to the bathroom to wash it,” I sum up with a couple of shrugs. “I’m doing good and I want to keep going. Apparently, I am now in the right state of mind to concur my fears.”
“Good, in that case, I’ll put two outfits for you to pick your own.” She taps my cheek trice with a finger, before sitting down to eat her own breakfast.
“Well, I’m going to take a shower.” I smile a small smile, getting back up to start my everyday business off in a more familiar way. Shower first, outfit second, breakfast last.
And then the regular ride to school, the regular staring as I make my way towards the classroom, and the uneasy feeling that settles as I am running a tad bit late due to my early visit to the kitchen, as Calo isn’t in class yet. His desk is empty and there’s only a minute left until the alarm will signal for classes to start. I stare backwards into the hallway, not finding Calo hurrying in my direction. He went home early enough to make it to school in time.
So, when I sit down, and the teacher closes the door, I quickly shoot him a message to ask him why he isn’t here.
He ignores the message for the rest of the day, while I can’t help but wonder if I did something wrong. If he has a new episode? Is he mad? Is he okay? What if he had an accident on his way home?
What if they took the same route dad took when he had his accident?
Did I skip the first and last steps of the stairs this morning?
I don’t think I did.
I think I sleepily walked down the stairs, without skipping the steps. What if Calo is affected by my stupidity?
What if it is the fact Pyper didn’t pick my exact outfit? She gave me a choice and I picked what to wear.
What if it’s the fact I’m no longer organizing my stuff? Wouldn’t that have affected him days ago?
I wake up from my thoughts, noticing everybody is staring at me, some chuckling in a mocking way, some looking worried. “Yes?”
“Are you alright? Why don’t you go outside for some fresh air?” Mrs. Tilly waves towards the door. “You seem a bit restless.”
“Right…” I drawl, nodding before I get up, leaving my stuff behind because a breath of fresh air sounds great right now.
I stop at the bathrooms first, noticing my eyes are wide and scared, my skin is pale and overall, I look light I might get a slight panic attack.
So, Calo’s absence is affecting me in a way worse way than I ever thought it would. I just hope Calo is doing okay and that he didn’t get in an accident. But I know I won’t be able to sleep for a second as long as I don’t know whyhe stayed home from school while he seemed fine when we fell asleep.
I just need to go over and see for myself.
I have to know what is wrong, or I will panic.
And I don’t want to have any panic attacks this week.
I want my last school week of the year to be good.
I want to actually be able to stay in school for an entire week, before I turn 17 during Christmas break.
So, I text mom and ask her to drop me off at Calo right after school ended.
I think my friend needs me, and I sure need him.