~ The Actual Beginning of the Story, Pt. 1 ~
I legitimately thought something was wrong with me in the fourth grade, when all the guys began entering the middle school dating world. I was more comfortable with sitting on the sidelines, but I never really had any interest. In the span of about two weeks, I realized that it was because I liked guys more than girls. In the sixth grade, I pushed away the feeling because of what ended up happening (more on that later).
You know how some people have, like, this moment of enlightenment, that opens their minds up to life, or to the realization of how shitty the world is, or whatever? Yeah, I got that in middle school, and it was how shitty the world is. Because I was twelve and was being shunned, and I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, I looked internal. I occupied myself with books on anything and learned more about myself than I should probably know.
When I entered my first year of high school, it began resurfacing, so I made the conscious decision to neither ignore it nor announce it, it was merely there. High school was a really bad time in my life – right on the cusp of adulthood, but still in the awkward stages of teenage-hood(?); trying to figure out who you are; and the dreadful memories of not fitting in, at least for me. My school failed in trying to be more accepting of all, though that was based heavily on the student body’s reaction. I was picked on anyway by the upperclassmen because of the unspoken code of high school hierarchy. Which, people say doesn’t exist, but it does.
So that seriously sucked.
But anyways, one day in late November, in 2010, once the start of sophomore year had come and gone, I told my dad I wanted to move schools because the bullying had become too much for me to handle. He dismissed it, said I “seemed fine”, and, after he went on a long rant about his own childhood experience that didn’t relate to me at all, I walked out of the house. I went to the main park across the train tracks on the side of town and sat on one of the benches for about two hours. I began doing this for everything when I decided that things were unbearable; ultimately, I was out of the house a lot. I didn’t feel like there was anyone for me to talk to. Dad didn’t believe in therapists, I didn’t want to talk to the school counselors, and I didn’t want to bother my friend – all one of them – with what I was feeling.
There was a forested part of the park that was sheltered really well. The branches covered a clearing that doesn’t allow the snow to fall when the snow falls. The other nice thing about it is that it’s really difficult to notice or even find, so it was a perfect hiding place.
Another night, a couple weeks before winter break, after the first snow had come, melted, and then frosted over again, and after getting into another fight about something stupid and blown way out of proportion with my parents, I stomped off into that sheltered area. I began tearing twigs off the trees and throwing them. Eventually, after I had calmed down enough, I began drawing in the frozen mud.
A soft chuckle sounded in my ears. “It’s a good drawing.”
I turned to see Alyssa sitting down next to me. Her general carefree smile had given way to a face that said “we’re-going-to-talk-about-some-serious-stuff-now”. This was completely out of character for her, considering how she was twelve and less mature than everyone in her entire school.
At the time, I wasn’t really concerned with why she was here. I just turned away and asked, “What do you want, Alyssa?”
She crossed her legs and took my stick. She began drawing. “My mom and your dad are morons to not see that you’re suffering.”
I turned to her, drawing in the cold air sharply through my teeth. She stopped and looked at me. “How can you tell?”
“Because you’ve become quieter.” I was always quiet, though. I considered myself excellent at it. “Before you ended middle school, you were loud, awesome, and a cool big brother.” That was the first time she ever called me her brother. “But now you’re quiet, and you seem angry at a lot of stuff.”
I leaned back slightly, feeling the cold imprint my hand was making in the mud. I pulled it out and wiped what came up with my palm on a tree. “And you got all that from being at home?”
Alyssa smiled, but it was soft, like she was trying to be very careful with what she was saying. “Tell me what’s happening.”
I frowned and looked away. “I don’t want to. You’ll think I’m insane, weird, or hate me.”
“I love your insanity. I like you when you’re weird. Why would I hate you? You rock.” She stuck her tongue through her teeth and smiled.
“I don’t want to.”
She sighed slowly. “Adrian, please tell me.”
I shook my head. “Alyssa, just drop it.”
“Okay, sorry,” she whispered. She continued drawing until the tip of the branch snapped off, now standing up from the mud. “Do you want to go home soon?”
I shook my head. In my peripheral vision, I thought I saw someone coming, but I dismissed it as shadows. “Not right now,” I mumbled.
“M’kay,” she whispered back.
We sat in silence for a little, but I could feel myself threatening to explode. I remember thinking, “SHE’S OFFERING YOU SOMETHING GOOD FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ADRIAN FUCKING TAKE IT” or something along those lines. Meanwhile, Alyssa just sat next to me, peeling bark off a tree in an attempt to occupy herself. “You can go if you want,” I told her.
Alyssa shook her head. “I’m not going without you. I don’t want to walk back alone, either.”
I sighed. “Can you…leave? It’s not to be rude, it’s just…I just want to be alone.”
I sighed again. “You want to know?”
Alyssa nodded slowly. “Yeah.”
So I told her everything, or at least an extremely watered down version of everything, that had happened since the beginning of the school year and middle school; it probably was about five minutes where I just talked. When I finished, she just nodded very slowly; Alyssa was clearly expecting more, something I wasn’t comfortable enough to say to her. It had gotten dark out when I was done talking, and there was barely anyone in the park anymore.
“Come on,” she whispered, leading me to the swing set immediately outside the wooded area. She started swinging. I just watched her from the next swing, wondering how she wasn’t cold.
Then she dug her feet into the ground and sat beside me, our swings swaying slightly in the cold breeze. “Adrian, I still love you. Even if you like guys, that shouldn’t matter. That doesn’t change anything about anything.” I got up to hug her, but she put her hand out. “I wouldn’t recommend telling your dad or my mom yet, though.”
I nodded slowly. “Yeah,” I whispered back. Though it hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind, it definitely wasn’t one of the things I wanted to do, recalling the horrible moments when they would rant about everything from politics to their negative views on marriage equality to proper etiquette at dinner. There were so many times where I just wanted to kill myself from them.
We hugged, and walked back to the house.
The bullying got worse after that. Rumors went around of my talking to someone in the park. The general verbal abuse that I had gotten used to suddenly gave way to physical, but only where it wouldn’t show. I informed Dad again that the bullying was becoming too much for me to handle; he told me to stand up for myself and, I quote, “be a man”, unquote.
Because saying, “Get over it”, to someone with PTSD will magically work, too.
After that, I snuck out of my house around eleven and went to the park, and I cried on the swing set for twenty minutes.
But the weeks droned on. The abuse declined slowly, from what I suspected as an increase in homework and an eagerness for winter break.
I remember one weekend, Alyssa and I were playing Wii Tennis in the basement. Dad and stepmom were upstairs reading in their room, and Sam was out with some friends before he went away to college. “Is there anyone you like?” she asked as I missed the virtual ball.
I sighed loudly. “Not at the present time, no. Why like someone when there’s a decent chance that everything will end in disaster?” I served. “I’d much rather have a sure thing rather than something that could fall apart.”
It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t care; I was just being cautious. Overtly cautious. Feelings, as I had learned very early on, were erratic and frustrating to maintain, even change. Feelings were stubborn. Nothing hurt more than having what you felt dismissed as if it was nothing. If I was to start liking someone, I wanted it to be mutual. A mutual attraction that builds and builds before it either collapses or builds more.
“You’ll be waiting forever.”
I scoffed at her quickly. “It’s not like I’m actively looking for it.”
“Why?” I asked, swinging my arm and hitting the ball back to her.
“Shouldn’t you be, like, dating people and stuff?”
“That – ” I served the ball back, and I remember this because I almost hit her. “ – is a stupid stereotype. I don’t really have any expectations of dating until college.” Before Alyssa could ask why, I answered, “Because I’ll be away from here.”
“You’re boring,” she told me, allowing the ball to bounce past her Mii.
“What, am I not fulfilling your desire to embarrass me with a potential love interest that would most likely cease to exist before high school ends?” I asked harshly, swinging and hitting nothing.
“Sorry,” she whispered, pausing the game and sitting down.
Throwing my head back, I sighed loudly. “Besides, I’m nothing special. I-I’m not some ‘special flower’ in romance novels that needs fixing, or, or needs someone to complete them.”
I’m not necessarily the easiest person to get along with, either. I loved learning and reading, but that didn’t make me special. The school’s clubs weren’t on my list of “things I wanted to do in high school” simply because I felt that I had better things to do with myself.
I was always contradictory with myself; it frustrated me. Sometimes I felt bland, boring even. There wasn’t a lot I believed in unless there was factual evidence to back up the claim; consequently, this was one of the things that separated myself from my father. Belief was a risky thing within itself – inflating expectation and breaking them when they failed to meet the idea in your head. I wanted to remain grounded in reality, without the impossible hopes and expectations that ruined people.
In complete honesty, I had always seen myself as pretty average. Of the 6.8 billion people on the planet, I understood that I was a drop, nay a speck, in an endless ocean that was humanity. I wasn’t special; sometimes, I didn’t feel like I was. But at the same time, I knew that I was.
I finished with, “I’m boring. But I’m okay with it.”
Alyssa nodded quickly and stood up. “Okay.” She unpaused the game and continued playing. Two minutes later, she asked, “Was there anyone you liked?”
I suddenly froze, allowing the virtual ball to bounce past my Mii. “No,” I whispered, my voice tinged with disappointment and hurt. Alyssa didn’t pry.
She served. “How long have you known?” she asked.
I blinked, swinging and missing the ball. “Fifth grade? But I’m pretty sure I had an inkling before then.” I paused the game and sighed loudly. “Can we play golf now?”
Alyssa didn’t allow the game change. “What do you think telling everyone will be like?” she asked, swinging her arm and nearly hitting me.
“You mean ‘coming out’?”
“Why?” I glanced at her, extremely unamused. “Never mind. Stupid question.”
I glanced back to the TV screen and groaned as I missed the ball. Whenever Dad talked about gay marriage at the table, or anything along those lines, it usually left me feeling insignificant. It was only a matter of time before I exploded at him. “I don’t…want things to go badly, though. I kinda know how he’s gonna react, but I…” I sighed and swung my arm, hitting the tennis ball. “…I just don’t want it to ruin everything, you know?”
Alyssa nodded. “No, I get what you mean.”
We played for a few more minutes. “What about your mom?” I suddenly asked.
Alyssa shook her head. “I have no idea.” She abruptly paused the game and put down the controller. “I want to help you.”
I scoffed at her and sat down. “You know, you’re being ridiculously articulate these past few weeks, you know that, right?”
Alyssa grinned broadly and nodded. “I know!”
I let out a light chuckle and sighed. “How do you want to help?”
“When…when the time comes where you’re going to do the ‘awful’ coming out thing, I want to help. Also, you do realize that I’m going to be badgering you about finding someone to like, right?”
“Can you not?” I asked harshly.
“Why?” I asked, curiously. The answer didn’t shock me.
“To embarrass you!” She smiled broadly and pressed the play button.
I pressed the pause button. “I can do that myself, Alyssa.”
“No, this is something that all siblings have to do.”
I made a circular motion with my index finger. “Wait, isn’t the whole ‘embarrassing your older sibling’s crushes’ things supposed to be on me?”
Alyssa shrugged and continued playing. “What’s the point of being a little sister if there’s literally nothing to embarrass you about?”
“There’s other things to do as the younger sibling,” I told her. She disregarded the statement playfully and served the virtual ball. I paused the game again.
“God! Adrian, I was kicking your butt, why do you have to keep pausing the game?!” she asked angrily.
I smiled warmly. “Thanks for being there for me, Alyssa.” She smiled back, and proceeded to kick my butt at Wii Tennis for another hour.
We progressively grew closer over winter break, she became my go-to person, and when I went back to school, things actually started changing in my mediocre life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, anyways, my sophomore year winter break started. Nothing else really happened at school. We stayed home to suffer the full blunt of the winter weather, even though my friend, Davis, had “fled” to California, Florida, or the Caribbean; I wasn’t paying attention. He went somewhere warm.
I mean, I didn’t mind staying home. My birthday was fun and quiet. I got books.
But there was one night in particular, right when the break started, I got into another fight with my stepmom over, again, something little and miniscule that got blown out of proportion. I stormed out of the house, and headed for the park.
I bumped into the guy. He looked at me with his glossy stare and stopped. I didn’t even notice him walking in front of me.
“I’m sorry,” I said, attempting to push past him. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your walk.” His hand fell on my shoulder, stopping me. I’d never seen his hands before, and I tried to move past him; his grip tightened, digging into my shoulder, and I stopped. I looked at those glossy eyes. I was nervous. “What are you - ” He turned me around, and made me walk with him, like I was the leader in some kindergarten game. “What’re you doing?”
He was wearing his winter hat and coat. The hat looked like a jester hat and had pom poms on the tips. The coat was overstuffed.