How To Be Straight

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Love and Hope

Part Five- Jamie

I didn’t like lying. I had once sworn that once I left New Redmen, I would never lie again. Once I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t. Having done it for years didn’t make it not sting any less, didn’t mean my gut didn’t twist any less. On the contrary, in fact.

However, I had to lie. Even though it was half breaking my promise (I didn’t have to pretend anymore, even if I wasn’t out of New Redmen yet).

Are you nervous? Gracie had asked me.

No. It will work. It has to work, had been my response.

I could tell, even just through texting, that this had relaxed her.

I lay in bed that night, afraid. Having lied was bad enough, but if I was wrong, if it didn’t work, then what? Perhaps I would just ask if I could go to a fancy boarding school for the rest of the year, so I wouldn’t have to see their disappointed faces every day. The only reason I had always said no to the idea of going to school far away was because it didn’t feel like part of me. It felt like part of… the other person, the person I had been pretending to be. I just didn’t feel entitled to it, and so I had refused time and time again. But now that they knew, maybe…

No. It would work. It had to work. It had to work. If it didn’t…

Then we had failed. Then it proved that they didn’t have to listen to us, and that we didn’t matter, that we didn’t have enough people, enough energy, enough…

Jamie, stop.

It had to work. It had to.

It…

Breathe, Jamie. Breathe.

I lay in bed that night, wishing to disappear, or see the future, unable to sleep, not wanting to exist in a world where so much and nothing was on the line.

Sleep, Jamie.

I pulled out my book and read a few passages. Okay, not helpful. It wasn’t exactly the most uplifting thing in the world.

New plan. I grabbed a new book from the shelf in my room and read some of that. I didn’t even glance at the title, anything was fine. Something uplifting. Something hopeful. Hope. That’s something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Hope. The word stuck with me through the drive to school the next day, where I picked up Gracie. My costume was pretty simple- my short hair made it easy, and with jeans and an old shirt of my dad’s from college, I looked pretty masculine. Gracie had hers pulled up into a hat, and was wearing loose cargo pants and a neon T-shirt that’s tightness made me suspect it was Jack’s.

We laughed when we saw each other and she clamored into the passenger seat.

“Why do boys dress like highlighters?”

I shrugged. “Honestly? No idea.”

We sat in jittery silence as I drove us the couple of miles to the school.

“What if no one else does it?” She whispered.

“They will.” I said, not very convincingly. “And if they don’t, then we’ll just look like we got dressed in a hurry.”

She shrugged. “But it’s more than that. It will mean that they-”

But she stopped, because we had arrived at the school.

“Oh my god.” She put her hand on my wrist, squeezing. “Oh my god, Jamie.”

“I- I see.”

And I did. I saw, and for a minute I wondered if I was still asleep, and if an annoying buzzing was about to wake me up. But then I realized that I never wonder if I’m dreaming unless I’m awake, and so I dismissed that thought and turned to what was in front of me.

“Why are they all outside?” There were about two dozen boys, all wearing tight legging and short skirts. There were also about three dozen girls milling about, dressed like us- like highlighters. And right in the middle of them was Dakota, dressed just as they normally do, with their pin and name tag.

“I don’t know,” Gracie said in response to my question. We were silent a second, and I realized they had all turned to stare at my truck. “I think they’re waiting for you.”

“Me?” I stared. She seemed to be right, though they could easily be waiting for her. It looked like- “I think they’re waiting for us.”

“Are we...?”

“We’re the leaders.” I whispered.

We were silent before I said, “You coming?”

She nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, let’s go.”

We got out of the car, and I felt slightly watched, a little too vulnerable as I walked over to them. I tried to remain calm as I walked up to them. I cleared my throat, but had no plan of making a big speech. “Thank you.” I said clearly. “I really cannot thank you enough.” I paused. Nobody moved. “Sh-shall we?”

As we all walked into the school, Gracie and I walked amongst them, reminding them to be very careful to abide by the rules, as something as simple as correcting a teacher on a misspelled rule could get us sent to the dean, and we wanted to show we were a peaceful protest, and we meant no disruption.

They all agreed, and Gracie and I led the way into the school.

Heads turned. People stared. We just smiled and waved, not much caring or thinking about what the students thought. We already had each other, why did we need their approval? We were our own little group of misfits, a collection of people somehow come together through hate, bonded through love. Love and hope. Hope and love.

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