Who We Are

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Set during the backdrop of the most vital years in any human, Who We Are tells the observant experiences of adolescence through the eyes of Todd Rhodes, a gay teenage boy who falls in and out of love, reminiscing a previous relationship that was an utter failure. Todd's life through his last year in school chronicles the world around him, which is filled with regret, fear for the future, and loneliness in a showcase of love-laced melodrama and heartbreak. Through it all, Todd fears that he may never find what he truly desires ever again: pure happiness.

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The beeping had begun to drive me crazy.

Since middle school and only middle school, because my mother would have woken me up personally in elementary school, I heard the same loud beeping coming from a red glow of time sitting next to my bedside. It was only now beginning to annoy me. I figured everyone at my age hated the sound of the beeping. Beep! Beep! Beep! I can hear it and anything similar to it, and then begin to hate it.

The sad fact was that it was the only sound that would wake me up in the morning. I couldn’t have soft, smoky sounds that Apple had programmed into my phone or a soothing song to wake me up in a good mood, preparing to take on the day with me as if it were a life coach. You’re going to be great, Todd! I just know it! Ha! Next, they’d see me drinking kale smoothies and smoking a pipe because “it’s not tobacco.” I could hear the words ringing in my ears and the septum-pierced idiot who spoke it. His breath smelled like imported beer.

My head slept between two pillows, and those in front of two more, and blankets tilted at different angles to tell me, inaudibly, that I was a disaster when I slept. I kicked them. I shoved them. I threw them off when it got too hot and tore them back onto me when it got too cold. I wanted to be left alone but I wanted nothing more than to be adored and focused on. My blankets despised my every move in the night. I folded them aside and pushed down the button on the red Beep! Beep! Beep! a machine that made me so vehemently angry. It shut up, finally, and I crawled out of bed.

My toes wrinkled into the white carpet around me. Ah, my room. What a place to hide! The blue curtains that were draped above windows in my bedroom touched the floor. One window itself had a bench built into it; I could see my street and the neighbor’s backyard, and even my pool and the little kids who occasionally fought in the street over who was hiding first. Sometimes, I’d open the window to let the breeze in and the curtains would flow with the motion of wind, touching the air around it, backing down, and just as it was about to caress itself against the wall again, it floated upwards onto nothing. With it, occasionally, came the smell of fresh baked goods from a bakery down the street, and the smell of cannoli shells and bread wafted into my room, vibrating my intestines to spend my money on it. They called it one word: suburbia. Suburbia! What a place to pop out children and die with your loved one! Bliss!

The window this morning was closed. Nothing came in through the windows; not even sound. Perhaps it was because it was...Sunday? September the second. Two more days until Beep! Beep! Beep! would actually have an impact on something more than my anger and confusion. My closet beckoned me to come and dress into something more than nothing, and I slipped into underwear, sweatpants, and a t-shirt; a comforting outfit to wear on Sunday, September the second, a day a little chillier than usual, but still warm enough to sit outside in the evening. Something that said “He looks comfortable” without saying “What a slob!” to the person they walked alongside. I didn’t bother with socks; it wasn’t that cold.

And outside the door I went, bearing another day where I could walk freely as a teenager who would always be allowed to walk freely.

Or, freely enough.

Because on Sunday, September the second, my father had the impulse to watch reruns of old football games to help prepare him for the season. A natural fan of the notorious New England Patriots, he had been a fan of football since he was able to catch one with his two hands safely and strongly. Never had he played it in high school. He was a nerd. An accountant. Aren’t they the same thing? His name sounded more athletic than anything. I knew only one other person who owned it. Anthony. Anthony Rhodes.

The echoes of forty-something years were kind to my parents. Barely had they aged. My mother still the generous, smart blonde girl who was too good for cheerleading but fun enough to secretly sip booze with her friends at Dave’s graduation party when she, herself, was a junior and her friend was actually a sophomore. Her name reflected the memories she had. Stella. She sounded free. She always felt free. She smiled freely.

I dragged myself to my kitchen--a hiding spot for my parents, much like my room to me, but during three times only: tax season--something that my father dreaded, although he was a professional at it--dinner time, and their morning breakfasts on Sunday, September the seconds. Eggs, cheese, milk, coffee, bacon, onion. Check, check, check. They had set a place for me, like usual, and it had the beautiful breakfast china out with mugs ready for hot coffee, crystal glasses ready for orange juice--or sometimes cranberry, apple, pineapple--and silverware and cloth napkins hand-sewn by my late grandmother.

We were not rich. We were wealthy, without a doubt, but nowhere near rich. My father was an accountant, for God’s sake, and my mother was an author whose books never made it on the New York Times Bestseller list or even sold more than a million copies. She tried, failed, tried, and failed. But she was sharp as a pin and a puppeteer of wordplay. Pure brilliance flowed through her brain with every word anyone spoke to her. My father was the same but only with numbers and algorithms. The fact they found each other twenty-two years prior to this year was shocking. The fact they stayed together this long in near-perfect harmony was even more shocking.

I sat at the table. My father and mother were cooking. Had they noticed me? Was I quiet like that? Or were they stuck in their conversation on “Over-Easy” versus “Sunny-Side Up?”

“He likes it sunny-side up.”

No, I don’t. But, I’ll eat it so I don’t upset you.

My father grumbled and moved the eggs over to the plate. Breakfast was already cooked. They turned to me and sat down. Don’t notice me, guys, don’t worry. I sat and ate, they sat and ate and talked. Never was my phone allowed at the table; never was I able to argue about it, either. Even on our Sunday, September the seconds breakfasts with our orange or cranberry or apple or pineapple juices and runny, disgusting yolks in my sunny-side up eggs that were perfect everywhere else besides inside my mouth.

I took a bite. Unseasoned. No salt? Pepper? Nothing else? I garnished it and ate. Beep! Beep! Beep!

“Are you applying for scholarships today?”

“Mm?” I looked at my mother. “Yeah, I was thinking about doing that today. It’ll take a while.”

“Better get started on it then.”

I nodded and sipped the coffee in my mug.

“Any specific scholarships I should apply for?”

“Ask your father,” she said and ate. She passed the responsibility onto him. How often they did this, how little I cared, how much they thought I did.

“Anything with a lot of money attached to it.” He took in coffee. He hadn’t shaved yet.

For years, now, I wondered what his dilemma with me had been. I never did drugs and had rarely drunk any alcohol with so-called “friends” of mine. They had abandoned me to shop and sit in beds, playing on phones and scrolling through terrible music focusing around terrible men and women who did nothing more but play on the computer. At least they tried. But my father, God bless him, seemed infatuated with the idea of “ignoring” my many efforts to make some sort of father-son intimate contact with him. All I could ever do was sigh and hope that my mother would notice something and say it to him.

Or would he just pass on the responsibility to her like they did so often?

While my parents weren’t rich, they had money to afford my attendance at a university. It was given to him after his mother passed away. She struck it big when she married again at thirty-four. He owned a bank, and she inherited it when he was killed. Then, my father did, along with the money, and sold it. He was allowed to because my grandmother let him. I didn’t want college here in Connecticut. I wanted somewhere far from here and away from the people I grew up with. I wanted the tawdry, melodramatic eighties film where the brilliant loner became successful and outspoken, remaining brilliant, and returned home to realize how wonderful his life is when he fights with his boss every week compared to the security of life with parents and old friends who only see him through posts on Facebook. I wear suits everywhere. Even to lunch out with a boyfriend during a day at the office. I craved it.

Then, my parents would sit aged and gray and think “Look at him! He’s so successful! We always knew he would be.” Of course, you did, and of course, I would be.

My food was gone, inside me, and my coffee halfway down as well. I poured no juice for myself. I didn’t want orange today. Next week, maybe, apple? My parents continued to talk and before I could slip out of the room as easily as I had slipped in, my mother interrupted my thoughts.

“Do you need anything from the store for school?”

“Notebooks. Pencils. The usual.”

I left with no tracks on the ground I stepped on. They couldn’t follow me, nor would they want to. I returned to my bedroom, a recluse, and sat at the desk for a lengthy amount of time. I sat with my expensive computer in my expensive house, looking through the internet for scholarships to make things less expensive when I wanted to go somewhere expensive to make money to be able to buy things that were expensive. Beep! Beep! Beep! I got bored, quickly, and then undressed again. I opened the window to let breeze and bakery aromas in and laid on my sheets. Crisp. Cold. Cozy. I wrapped myself up in blankets; now I wanted the attention my parents weren’t going to give me on Sunday, September the second. My blankets didn’t have a choice. They didn’t say much, anyway.

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Bello: I really found this story good more than I even thought,it was so interesting, I have never read a story so interesting as this

lygene866: I can't believe I can't finish reading it. I don't like Wattpad and refuse to read anything on that app. I enjoyed it thoroughly until the last chapter. Hope you write more stories and put them on Inkitt or another app.

scarbrough71: 💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💗💗💗💗💗💗💗💗💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜

Mili: At fist i thought that silar would change and that he would realize what a wonderful wife he had, but the plot that Alexi was the true love was unexpected at fist but very welcomed. I would have loved to read a little bit more about their future life together. Overall very pleased withe the story

Afeline Curmi: Love the story. The epilogue is lovely.❤️❤️

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