I have a confession to make to you, Journal. It's been hard to come to the point where I could, but here's a thing I've been keeping from even you, even myself. I haven't been taking Zoloft the way I used to. It's… hard to put this in a way that doesn't make me sound insane and self-destructive, but while it's nice to numb myself, it's also kind of frustrating. Floating through life as if it's happening around me instead of to me isn't all it's cracked up to be. So, unbeknownst to my doctor and my parents, I've been stepping it down for a while. Cutting the pills in half and taking a half instead of a whole for each dose. I feel a lot more like myself now, but it still helps keep me from falling into some suicidal black hole. Compromise, I guess.
That seemed important. Now let's talk about whether or not Bright Abbott is a cock.
It was at school, at lunch. Picture Laynie all by her lonesome on one of the picnic tables outside. Amy was off doing some stupid prom thing, or a yearbook thing, I don't know, and Bright ambushed me. I really wasn't expecting him to come up, and even less was I expecting him to sit down across from me and say, "What's up?"
"Uhh…" That was about as far as I could get.
"Sweet, you got butterscotch pudding!" He reached for it, but I moved to block.
"What do you want, dipstick?"
"Okay, okay, don't start throwing peas at me," he grunted, glancing at the uneaten green spheres in the corner of my tray. "Just wanted to say I was sorry."
"For being… y'know," he said with a shrug, scooping an entire chicken nugget into his mouth and almost swallowing it whole.
"For being a barnyard animal?"
"For messing with you guys. I guess that was rude or something."
I gaped at him. Then I found my voice. "Yeah. Yeah, or something. You were total bastard. In fact, you'd have to go to obedience school for a few years to qualify for Bastard."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," he said with a withering look. "Just don't gay it up in my living room anymore, okay? God, like I don't have enough trauma from trying to get my sister and my best friend together."
"Nobody ever accused me of being your best friend. And I'd deny such accusations."
"Not you, moron! Ephram."
I blinked. "Oh. I mean… you tried to set them up?"
"Sure," he sighed. "Not that it really worked. She was stuck on Crackhead Callahan and he was banging the babysitter. Glad that lameness is over now. To be honest, Madison got on my nerves; she was super fine, but all that 'ehh, I'm too old, what are we gonna DO' lost its freshness quick."
"Somewhere in here you're supposed to be apologising for threatening to out me to your sister's parents."
For a moment he just stared at me, spoonful of red Jell-o halfway to his mouth. "Didn't I say that part?"
"Dude, come on!" I snapped. "You don't think we're already going crazy with this all by ourselves? Like we need close family members laughing and cracking jokes at our expense?" I leaned forward a little and hissed in a tone that was too quiet for anyone else to hear, but plenty loud to ring in his ears. "I'M A FUCKING QUEER, YOU ASSWIPE!"
I watched him actually go all pale. That was pretty well worth it.
Almost a minute went by, in which I distractedly sipped my chocolate milk. Then he whispered, "Man. I… God, like I have any clue what that's like, but… doesn't sound easy."
"It's not easy. It's like swallowing fire." Then I gave him a tight smile. "You wanna know something weird? Every moment I spend dealing with this makes me feel guilty for not dealing with Colin. Did you hear what I said? I feel guilty on top of scared and confused and alone. It's like, super bonus inner-conflict."
At Colin's name, he dropped his spoon and just sat there, staring at (through?) his tray. I get that; they were best friends and teammates and all. Plus, he was in the truck with Colin; the whole ordeal was a little more first-hand for him. Finally, he told me in a quiet voice, "Yeah. Seriously, Laynie… my bad. I was a jerk, I shouldn't have done that, I… I was just trying to mess with Amy because she always acts so superior, like she's-"
"I did have an older brother. You get that, right? Somewhere in the dusty corners of my mind I remember what sibling rivalry was like."
"Ephram said this thing had you all twisted up in knots," he nodded. "Man, I feel like the biggest idiot ever."
My eyebrows shot up. It's too bad I got distracted, because it would have been gratifying to pounce on that "biggest idiot ever" line and milk it for all it was worth. "Ephram said? You talked to him about this?" Blood pounded in my ears. "You talked to anybody about this?"
"Not like that!" he said defensively, holding his hands up in front of himself. "I… yeah, I know that sounds like I tattled or whatever, but naw, it wasn't that kind of-"
"You- you are such a- GOD, Bright! Why? What did I ever do to you?"
Running a hand through his curly blond hair as if checking to see if he looked as nervous as he felt or something, he hissed, "He figured it out! I was acting all thoughtful – which we both know is out-of-bounds for me on a normal day – and he asked why, and I said it was 'cos you were pissed at me, and then he just kinda… made the connection. We both did."
"Made the connection? You mean you compared notes?"
"It's like that thing, you know? Where you say, 'What about Laynie?' and the other guy says, 'I dunno, what did you hear about Laynie?' and the first guy goes, 'Probably something more important than you heard' until you kinda meet in the middle. Neither of us came right out and told, I swear to God, okay?"
"So what did he say?" I was feeling awfully furious at Ephram right about then.
"Just that I should apologise… and stop giving Amy shit. He was really defensive of Amy." Small chuckle. "Always has been, though, right? Since the dawn of freaking time."
I folded my arms over my chest, so self-conscious, so exposed out there in the chilly breeze with nothing but a picnic table to hide under. "I'm so glad it takes one of your buddies smacking you around to admit you did something wrong. That's really evolved."
"I was gonna apologise anyway," he said with a shrug. "Just… well, after talking to E, I saw I had more to apologise for than I thought. Sorry, man."
Suddenly I laughed. "You're still calling him 'E'? He hates that, you know."
Bright was already making this uncomfortable face, then he leaned over and whispered, "Is this like one of those sorority experimenting things, where you're gonna quit doing it and go back to normal, or... do I have to worry about walking in on you guys all the time? No offense, but it's weird enough watching my sister swap spit with a guy, and... well, you know what I'm sayin', right?"
I sure did. It was an incredibly uncaring thing for him to say, but whatever, I kinda got it. But I wasn't going to go easy on him, either. No way. "Dude... no. This is reality, not a pillow-fight in a porno. I'm going out with Amy." I gulped. "We're like, together together. For now."
Up until that point, he had been getting greener and greener until he looked more like the peas on my tray than a classmate. When he heard the last part, though, his head snapped up. "For now? What's that mean?"
"It means... I don't know what it means." I gave him this pleading look, hoping to God he'd get what I meant. "Bright... I'm not really sure what we're doing. I've never had any long-term relationships, not with guys, girls, Chia Pets... I'm kind of fucked up in the head. Maybe I'm hurting Amy by being with her when I'm so fucked up, or maybe not, but I... I don't know if I'm even capable of making something like this work. I might not be. Which would make the the most horrible bitch in the world."
He swallowed, clearly regretting entering this Night Gallery conversation. (If I wasn't writing this in pen, I'd go back and change that to "Twilight Zone" since I know I'm probably the only person in my age demographic that's ever heard of "Night Gallery".) "Yyyeah. Anyhow, I just wanted to, y'know, apologise and all that, and now I guess I'm gonna-"
"Right," I sighed, nodding and almost half-looking at him. "Good, fine, go. Nice knowing you."
He was already on his feet and halfway from the table when he paused. Then, without turning, he said something to me... something unexpectedly wise coming from his big empty noggin. "We're all fucked up, anyway, y'know? Your version of it is just brand X, while most of the rest of us have brand Y or Z. But it's all the same crap when you open the boxes."
Then I was alone with my thoughts again. Which is why I turned to you. Don't laugh at me for bringing the stupid journal to school. I just feel like I gotta have it on hand now, in case my head starts overflowing and I need to dump it out on the paper. I heard that! Screw you for laughing.
Final verdict? I guess he's not a cock. Not completely.
AUTHORESS'S NOTE: Gah, Thanksgiving plans are already interfering with my posting schedule. Sorry for the delay, I wanted to have this up yesterday but I was out buying pumpkin-in-a-can and gravy-in-a-can and peas-in-a-can... see a pattern? And yes, I know it's a holiday founded on the pilgrims' supposedly-staunch relationship with the native tribes (whom they later actually raped and pillaged pretty ardently), but I continue to celebrate it because yes, it IS important that we visit with our families and stop for a moment to realise how grateful we should be that we're not... being raped and pillaged. Also, I cleanse my fidgety conscience by refusing to celebrate Columbus Day :)