How To Be Straight

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I sat in stunned silence for a minute, trying to process, before I realized that she’s walking away and I forced myself to speak. “Wait. Wait. Wait but- but that- but- wait. Wait. I don- wait but- wait. Holy shi- wait. No. Wait. Wait. I don’t- wait. Wait.” I went on like this for about thirty seconds while my mom watched with an amused expression before I finally found the word I was looking for. “What?!

Yup. Very poetic.

“We’ll talk about it some other time. Goodnight sweetie,” my mom said, kissing my head.

“Mom, that’s not-”

“Goodnight, Jamie,” she said sternly, turning off the light on her way out. My music was still playing softly in the background, but I couldn’t hear it.

“Mom!” I rolled onto my back, letting out an exasperated sigh. I took out my phone and called Gracie, even though it was somewhere around midnight. On a Saturday night. Anyone who’s anyone would be up.

“Jamie?” She sounded tired.

“Did I wake you up?”

“No, I-” and then to someone else, “Yeah. One second, it’s Jamie.” Pause. “Yeah. Just one minute. Sorry, Jamie. We’re having a sleepover.”

“Who’s we?”

“Abbey and I.”

“Sounds fun.”

“Yeah. Just watching movies and stuff. Very chill. I should get back to her though. Do you need something?”

“If you’re busy…”

“No, no. Don’t worry about it. She’s” -I heard a door closing- “She’s being weird.”

“She likes you,” I said, like it was the most obvious thing in the universe. Because it was.

“Jamie! Stop! Do you need something?”

“Um, yeah. Okay, so I kind of almost half came out to my parents yesterday.”

“Oh my God! Jamie! Are you insane?!”

“Quite possibly. Anyway, I then proceeded to run away to Baltimore for the night.”



“Okay. You are officially insane. Are you there now?”

“No, I drove home today.”

“Okay. Cool. Any progress on Shay?”

“Yeah. She drove up to Baltimore after me and we talked. It was good. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”


So I told her about my mom, and how annoying she had been being, and what she had said, because I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do, and Gracie was good at these things.

“Wait, what?! Girlfriends?! Plural?!”

I hadn’t noticed that she had referred to more than one but I pretended I had. “I know! Like, what the hell?!”

“No idea. No idea. Hey listen, I wish I could stay, it’s just…”

“It’s fine. Go ahead. I was just going insane. I had to tell someone.”

“Okay. Bye.”

“Bye. Actually, wait, Gracie? I need to-” But she had already hung up.

I closed my eyes, suddenly tired as I had said I was earlier. I curled up in my bed, shutting off my music, and fell asleep.

I woke up with light streaming in my window and my… dad staring at me?


“Hi,” I said sleepily, propping myself up on one elbow.

“Hey sweetheart.”

“How long have you been… here?”

Instead of answering my question, he pulled out a thermos and handed it to me. I realized it was full of coffee, even though he hated it when I drank coffee, which was why I had taught myself how to deal without it, at least until I could stop at the local cafe on my way to school.


“You’re welcome.”

“Dad. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” It sounded almost like he was asking, you are?

“I’m sorry I scared you. I’m sorry about what I said to you.”

“I shouldn’t have spit on those people like that,” he said quietly.

“I- you- really?”

“I tried so hard to raise you right, but if you had done that…” He trailed off.

“It’s not the first time you’ve done something like that,” I whispered.

“It’s- it’s not?”

I shook my head sadly. “No. It’s not. I just didn’t react before. I guess I’ve got more of a temper than I thought.”


“Dad. I want to apologize for liking…” but I couldn’t say it, couldn’t actually admit to him that I liked girls, so instead I said, “for being like that, but it would be like apologizing for having brown hair. I have no control over it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can dye it, but it will always be brown underneath. There’s nothing I can do.”

He nodded slowly. “Okay,” he whispered.

“You’re… okay with this?”

“Okay is a strong word. But as long as I don’t have to see it, or think about it, I suppose I can live with you. Or at least beside you.”

I felt strangely disappointed. I had still half hoped he would tell me he loved me anyway, and that he was going to learn about all this stuff, and all that stuff. I had expected him to scream and kick me out right then. But this… I didn’t know what to feel. Was I supposed to be angry at him? Relieved? “Thank you?”

He stood, brushing off his fancy suit. “You’re welcome.” And he left my room.

Now I was so confused, I couldn’t process everything. So I let my body do it for me. I dragged myself out of bed, leaving my undrunk coffee on the bedside table. I wandered to my closet and pulled on my running clothes, leaving my pajamas on the floor, and walked downstairs. I chugged a glass of water in the kitchen before heading out the door.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3...

The numbers played in my head like a mantra.

When some people are upset, they write. Some people read. Some people cry. Some people talk to a therapist. I run.

I run and run and run and run.

And I don’t stop until I’m satisfied.

I had probably done too much for one day. I was probably going to get injured, but I wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t sure I could stop.

I start my seventh mile, my breath heaving as I push myself faster, faster than I should be going, faster than I have ever gone before on a run this long. I must be really angry. Really upset. Really confused. Faster. Faster faster faster. It is an addiction, a problem, a way to solve all of my problems. Faster. Faster. Faster. It was as if- faster. Faster. Faster.- as if I was made to do this, and if I wasn’t doing this, then what was I- What was I doing? Doing in this world? Doing on this planet. My sole purpose in this world was to go faster.




I was in a full out sprint now, even though I was a good two miles from home. I was breathing so hard it was a little scary, but I didn’t- couldn’t- stop.



My legs hurt. They hurt in a bad way. They hurt in a You’re gonna get hurt so you should probably stop way. I didn’t stop.


My thoughts turned to the union- the revolution was a better word, more dramatic, more important seeming. More attention grabbing. More… more.


So what were we even going to do? It would be best if we could fit our rebellion acts into the school rules. Or at least borderline school rules. So that there was nothing they could do about it. I decided that I would look at the school handbook when I got home and take down some ideas.


My legs were burning. I wondered if I had stress fractures. If I did, my legs would break eventually. I would have to talk to the coach about that.

But not today. Because today, I was only about a mile from home.

And so I ran, burning energy, anger. With my mantra playing in my head over and over.




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