Breathe, Tommy (bxb) (lgbt)

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Chapter 11: Straight Boys Don't Kiss Boys Like That

“If Dom finds out, he will make sure it’s not a problem anymore.”

For a moment, my throat and tongue don’t exist. I’m stumped, but Gemma’s frightened and my silence isn’t helping her anymore.

“What do you mean?” I ask. What is Dom even capable of, other than housing sheer homophobia in himself?

“He’ll do whatever it’ll take for me to lose all will to raise a child, to the point I make the decision to abort.”

She slumps down to the carpeted floor and I follow. There’s nothing interesting about the basic white ceiling, except that it’s a blank canvas we can mentally sketch epic holes of nothingness on to vacuum us up from our bleak lives.

“He may just blackmail me, whatever style he’s feeling.”

That's evil. So are you.

“Does Christian know yet? About how you’re-”

“No one knows yet,” she cuts me off, “only you.”

“And why have you told me? Thought I was a jerk?”

It’s somewhat of a burden knowing because now I have to tell her I won’t let Dom do anything because some people have common decency and my parents would want me to be in that percentage. But that requires me plummeting into a corner of life that just so happens to be Dom’s corner, and my feet are casually twisting the opposite way because absolutely not.

“You are,” ouch, “but I don’t know. I can’t exactly tell the girls at the sorority. They’ll go fucking berserk with their credit cards on baby shopping and anything baby-related that does the exact opposite of keeping my secret, and I just... I don’t want to lose my fucking mind over this.”

Her and I both.

“I can’t stop obsessively worrying about what the shit-fuck I’m meant to do when I can’t dodge the speculation anymore. It won’t be speculation anymore. It’ll be hard facts.”

Ah, the lethal worry over keeping a secret out of your control. You know that all too well. I can control my own secret. How can you control something that’s already exposed? Exposed six hours away from me, I think I’m fine. Talk spreads like a disease. Don’t be surprised if somebody here already knows. I’ll mute you with pills if I have to. But you know that didn’t work before. I’m an entity, I just grew inside you. Like an ‘ate my twin’ situation. You know the only way to get rid of me is to end yourself.

I dare you.

“You should tell Christian.”

“Not yet. I’m worried about his reaction. He’s known me so long, he knows this isn’t like me. He wants me to have a solid future, I want that too, but everything happens for a reason, right?”

“Mm, like what if this is actually Dom’s redemption?”

She snorts, then breaks out in laughter at the pathetic idea that Dom could have any redemption for whatever’s made him what he is, which is a big giant fucking asshole to what I understand with my uneducated-but-somewhat-educated-through-hearsay perspective on him.

I laugh myself, and then we settle down to a comfortable quietness. Sunrise is only a couple hours out and it’s the first time I can recall laughing when I should be sleeping. The only conversations I get that keeps me awake at night are the ones with the anxiety.

I turn my head to face her and decide to do the nice thing - have common decency. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, I’m still not interested, but I won’t let Dom do anything to you, okay? Christian won’t either. You should really tell him.”

She hums in response, but that’s about it.

When I think we’re about to drift off to sleep on the floor (only to deal with Aiden’s comments when we wake if he’s returned by then), she says, “You’re the exact opposite of me.”

I don’t know if it’s the sleep deprivation that’s making it okay to talk about me, but it’s okay. Because it’s Gemma, clueless Gemma, and even when my sleep bar is on red, I have no ability to find anything relieving in outing myself, not for the weight off my shoulders, not for anything.

I don’t want to be exposed. You already are. She has no idea. Maybe not her, but what about the others?

“You’re the exact opposite of me, in that you’re an introvert and I’m not, but I like that about you. You’re humble and homely whereas I feel the need to party every night.”

“Wait, wait," I finally turn my whole body to her, ”every night? I mean, are you sure it’s Dom’s?”

“Are you implying I have sex with everyone?”

I press my lips together. Wow, asshole. This is on you and I. Save yourself. You were just telling me to end myself. That too. Wait, do I save myself or end myself? Save yourself by ending yourself. Oh, fudge.

“Chill out,” she lightly hits my arm. “You’re joking, I know. What’s going on in that head of yours?”

“An actual fucking war,” I let slip out unintentionally, but between that and being honest with Uncle Jay, I’m starting to feel better. Minuscule improvement, but better nonetheless. What happened to ‘not the weight off my shoulders, not for anything’? Just make sure you don’t out yourself. How do I out myself talking about you? Aren’t I the reason why your secret is a secret?

But I go on, because physically I’m tired, and emotionally I’m tired, and I’ll blame it on my four A.M. self in the morning.

Just don’t expose yourself.

DON’T.

“A long time ago my grandma told me, when the world is at war, we go to sleep. Not to be ignorant about what’s going on, but to let it play out because what life wants to play out, life will play out. It’s like that in my head.”

“What’s playing out in your head?”

“All the reasons why I can’t let anyone in.”

She gives a sympathetic smile. I don’t want her sympathy. I almost tell her to get out.

“You have anxiety, don’t you?” You fucking idiot. She’ll find out about everything else now. “I once had a friend with anxiety, and we stopped being friends because I was never able to get past how selfish, miserable and moody it made her...”

At least you don’t have to worry about losing friends. You don’t have any. Savage. Correct.

“...I regret that, because deep down, she was so fucking smart and witty and beautiful. So I educated myself on it. Studied a mental health awareness course and joined a foundation, applied for college and now I’m here studying psychology to be a therapist.”

I sit up. It’s all fabricated. Not if I go to all the psychology professors and find her name. That’s considered light stalking. What do you want me to do? Believe me and believe that everything she’s saying is a sham. You have no solid proof. Take me to court. Pills. Won’t work. I’ll end you. And we’ll be reunited in the version of afterlife made for psychos with second voices.

“It’s just a voice,” Gemma says softly, “who thinks it can control you, but that voice is just a full stop in an entire universe.”

A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe.

“What’s your mantra?”

I inhale deeply. “Head down, earbuds in, I’ll be fine.” Sweet, this little truth club can fill in for those extracurricular activities and jobs you never applied for and pay off your college debt.

“How’s that working out for you?” she winks.

“Keep bumping into you,” I laugh. Then I say, “There’s also three scratches, three picks, three pinches, but I don’t want to hurt myself anymore,” then I lay back down and let the world turn and the moonlight shine and the wind blow and life be life.

A full stop in an entire universe.

Right before we fall asleep, I hear her ask, “Are you interested in me now?”

“Nope,” I reply and she laughs.

“Thought so. What about Christian?”

“What about him?”

“He’s clearly interested in you.”


A week later, following the night with Gemma, I’m a mess. This time it’s like I’m watching myself. Watching myself be a helpless, sweaty handful slumped outside the dorm room watching Christian turn the corner. He just can’t leave me alone. And I thought I was doing okay.

A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe.

“Hey,” he says, dropping his backpack to the floor. He takes one look at the mess I am and kneels down, grabbing a cold bottle of water for me. Then he takes my hand into the coolness of his without my permission. “Heard a lower temperature helps.”

And he sits with me, then he takes me outside, and it’s all a fuzz of hazy colours and distorted sounds until we’re in the empty campus courtyard at a wooden garden table with coffee and oatmeal at five in the late afternoon because we’re not quite nocturnal but backwards and crazy.

“You’ve been out the whole week,” he goes straight in. “You need help.”

“No,” I say and sip my coffee.

“Tommy, you need help.” The way he says it, it’s like he actually cares. You called him a creep, you know whatever happens now is all payback for hurting his feelings. “You need help and that’s not up for debate. You looked like you were dying.”

My knee bounces uncontrollably and my teeth grind together. “You need to leave me alone.”

He scoffs and runs a hand through his hair in frustration. “I’m the only student in this college who, by the looks of it, actually gives a damn about you, and even after what you said and how shitty you pretty much are, I still give a damn.”

His ‘giving a damn’ is really testing me. It’s really fucking testing me. Everything’s testing you. Life’s one big fucking test. Eat your oatmeal.

“Why? Huh?” I question. “Why?” Why would he give a damn about someone so problematic like you?

“Jesus Christ, because no one else is trying to tell you it’s okay.” Because no one cares, and we both know he doesn’t too. We both know it’s a sick game. Everything’s sick and everything’s a game. Sick game. Sick. Game.

His fists are balled up and porcelain white. There’s something that puts me at ease in making him mad and knowing I’m possibly driving him away - far, far away - from my issues. Your issues are because of you. You’re fucked up.

“Because I get what you’re going through,” he sighs. “I really fucking get it.”

Fucked up. Fucked up. Fucked up.

“Just stop.”

Come on. Fight me.

“I have,” Christian says confused, then reaches for my hand, but I grab the spoon in my oatmeal before he can touch me.

A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe. A full stop in an entire universe.

It was a one-time thing, a one-time Tommy-was-dying thing for him to hold my hand, but he doesn’t get that because he tries again and gets his way. Squeezes. I’m unresponsive. This time I don’t have the energy to fight him, because all my exertion is going towards blocking out the voice in my head.

That won’t work like pills won’t work. But you know what will.

“Hey, it’s okay. How many times do I have to tell you that it’s okay.”

You’re just too cowardly to do it.

“Stop...” the words barely leave my mouth. There’s no one here but everyone’s still watching. Everyone will know your secret. I try to slip my hand out of Christian’s, but he holds on tighter, his other hand locking mine in.

“I have,” he repeats, but then he starts again with it; “It’s okay... It’s alright.”

Nothing’s okay. And I just want him to stop. Because it hurts to know all of this is fake. And I just want you to stop.

“It’s okay.”

But you’re too scared to stop me. And I just want Christian’s ‘giving a damn’ to be real. Because you’re all alone. Can’t I just believe it’s real? Too risky. Can’t you leave me alone? Too reckless.

“Tommy?”

Why won’t you leave me alone?

Because I love you.

I buckle under it all. It takes me a moment to register that I’m crying. Of all the places this could occur, it’s happening out here, in the open with the breeze picking up and the night starting to fall.

“Nothing is okay,” I speak quietly. “I feel nothing but shame. Why does my sexuality matter? Why does that give anyone permission to beat me up? You don’t understand how scared I am for anyone to find out. How scared I am that I’ll get beaten up again. I don’t want to be that vulnerable...” Idiot, idiot, idiot.

A silence falls. Of course, he doesn’t know what to say. But then he talks all softly, all honeyed like I’m a vase unbalanced on the railing of a balcony fifteen floors up.

“I understand how hard that must be for you to admit, and I know what it’s like to feel that way. Not to your extent but-”

“How do you know?”

He smiles gently. “I like boys like I like girls. Fell in love with a boy in high school - the cliché I’ll hold all your books kind.”

What? What?

“No one ever really knew about us,” he goes on. “No one ever really suspected I’d like boys, but when it all happened, there was no reason to be ashamed. I only kept our relationship a secret because it was special to me - he said the same thing too. He wasn’t a jock, wasn’t into sports. Instead, he hid in books all damn day long, and that often got him picked on by pointless good-for-nothing bullies who wanted to call him a faggot and queer for the fun of it. They’d hurt him, it’d hurt me.”

He takes a spoonful of his oatmeal into his mouth. I wait for him to fragmentise like maybe I’ve made all of this up because I’m that lonely, because I’m textbook crazy, but there he sits in the flesh, not going anywhere.

I take him in. He’s beautiful. Could go as far as to say he’s the type of guy I’ve seen in my dreams since I figured out I like boys. So it sucks that I don’t really know him past the coffee and the frat boy persona.

“I know how it feels,” he says.

Having our eyes locked on each other ends up being too intense. I end up looking away. I’ve stripped my own self raw today. Now he knows what makes me me: fear and pain and gayness. At least now I don’t have to pretend anymore.

“Anyway, we just kinda grew apart. He liked tea, I preferred coffee. Point is, I get it.” Another spoonful of his oatmeal. “So, as creepy as you find it, it’s not purposeless that I want to be your friend.”

The leaves on the trees ruffle, the syrup brown ones on the grass scatter around with the autumn wind, and the night lights switch on in the courtyard as I take in all that he’s said. A shiver runs throughout my body and I push my oatmeal to the side - it’s edging on cold. I start to drag my nail lightly across the table and fiddle with a tiny stone that’s been left there.

“One could call everything you’ve said fiction,” I say.

An offended look locates on his face. “Why would I lie about the type of things I’ve said?”

“You’re a frat boy. What else do you people do than all the things you shouldn’t? Are you going to tell everyone the truth about me now that I’ve said it?”

He pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. “You’re paranoid.”

“I’m paranoid?” Disbelief slaps me in the face. “All our conversations have been about my sexuality, tell me why?”

“I just want to help you,” he frowns.

“I don’t want your help.”

I get up. Forget about leaving the world to turn and letting life play out. I’m not in a position to sleep and let life play out; he knows now. He comes to stand before me. Clearly, he won’t let me escape this overdone conversation until he gets his point across.

And I think he’s about to lose it.

“God! I have never met someone so goddamn stubborn they would rather keep suffering than accept help!” he shouts.

“And how do you expect me to accept your help if all you’re doing is lying to me?!” I shout back.

All this shouting, no progress. How did I not see it? It’s one step forward for two steps backwards with him.

He steps closer. “I’m. Not. Lying.”

Jesus! “YES, YOU ARE!” Calm down before you give him a reason to tell everyone. “Yes, okay! You are,” I breathe heavily. “Let me just believe that because it’s easier! It’s easier...okay? It’s easier.”

You’re so close to him. He’s so close to you. This wasn’t scripted. How does that make you feel?

“Okay,” he whispers, “okay...”

I look into his eyes, then at his lips. My stomach flips. This wasn’t scripted. How does that make you feel?

His hands come to my cheeks, slowly, respectfully...

And he kisses me.

He’s kissing you. This wasn’t scripted. How does that make you feel? I freeze up, but then it all starts to feel like this was meant to happen and I mould to his movements.

But then he pulls away, hair gone with the wind, lips parted, looking all Greek sculpture beautiful. I shiver and he takes off his sweater to put it on me. I don’t know what to say, or how to feel. He notices that.

So, with a wink and the loss of his sweater, he smiles that frat boy smile, and then he’s disappearing into the evening with nothing else to say but,

“Straight boys don’t kiss boys like that.”

Fuck. Fuck.

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