Ryker started acting weird at the mall yesterday. He said it was because it was too loud, and while it very well could have been that, he kept looking over at two boys a few tables away from us.
Maybe he could hear one of their death songs, I didn’t want to bring it up, because I’d already learned that Hilana and Alice’s lives were short, I didn’t need the weight of knowing another stranger could be dying. I felt bad about leaving Ryker to deal with it on his own. It must have been strange to both be surrounded by life and death, I guess doctors and nurses have the same experience but they’re probably more equipped to deal with that a lot more than a high schooler or kid, (I guess when he found out what the songs actually meant), is.
I tried to be a source of comfort, be there for him without intruding or being distant. We were going to watch the fireworks in Kearney Memorial Field, in Kearney, Nebraska on New Years’ Eve with Hilana’s family and some of my cousins, Walter, who was going to start his second semester of university in the new year and his sister, Jaclyn, who was due to start her second semester of high school in the new year.
I had nerves about them meeting Ryker, he was obviously my first boyfriend and while they were my cousins, I didn’t spend enough time with or around them or their families to know if they were accepting of me let alone our relationship or Ryker.
They were my father’s sister’s kids. I don’t know if he’d given them the pep talk on not being offensive and all that with language and jokes, honestly, it would a nice but embarrassing gesture if he did, and it would make my life a little easier.
No one should be tolerated but it’s easier than being hated. It sucks when your family, even your distant relatives who you don’t necessarily have the best relationships with don’t accept you, it makes you feel like the rest of your family is faking it until they make it, or maybe until you change your mind. I know my parents love me, but since learning, I’m adopted and not actually related to any of them, I also kind of feel like the black sheep who wandered into the pasture with all the white sheep.
Maybe I could relate to Ryker being outcasted by society a lot more than I thought.
Ryker slept beside me, peacefully. I studied his dark brown hair and almost black eyelashes. I listened to the in-take and out-take of breaths from his nose and his beating heart. I got up and took the rainbow flag Hilana had gifted me yesterday, took four tacks, and pinned it to the wall across from the bed.
I remember seeing how happy Ryker was when he opened his bisexual flag. I never understood why some people, even from the Queer community said you had to choose. It would be like choosing your favorite ice cream flavor or song. There are just too many to choose from and you're not going to bash someone for liking multiple kinds. And just because you or I or someone else stopped off in Gaytown didn't mean that was where he was headed.
Many bi celebrities are labeled as evasive, vague, and pretentious. All because they cannot choose a side when they know they are attracted to multiple people along the spectrum. Bisexuality is seen sometimes as a way to hide homosexual feelings, “a gay person with training wheels” to quote one article’s commenter. The definition of bisexual is: A person who is sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender.
This doesn’t necessarily pertain to just men and women, either. This can include people who fall anywhere on the spectrum depending on their preferences. The meanings of the colors on the bisexual flag are as follows: Pink for same-sex/gender attraction. Blue for opposite/different-sex attraction, and purple for attraction across the gender spectrum.
How much clearer does it need to be? And why can’t it be without being judged? The reason you don’t see it much, to begin with, is because of the little to no representation, if it is not supported or represented you most likely do not want to be it. Which is sad when that’s how you actually feel and have to live day in and day out being invisible, brushed aside or shunned.
Ryker was lucky to find the representation he did in the form of a bisexual warlock named Magnus Bane, on a TV show called Shadowhunters.
It’s like an internally waged war that is unnecessary when we are all fighting for the same thing: Acceptance. The comments section of videos and articles discussing bisexual and other sexual identities who are attracted to multiple genders are like being in a courtroom with no judge, no one is there to call order, and the opposing sides just go back and forth without stopping. I am proud to be who I am and so should everyone else including bisexual, pansexual, transgender, non-binary, and the lesser-known identities and sexualities. We shouldn’t be shunted around by like-minded people, especially. No one should ever be ignored or erased.
Ryker stirred beside me.
We all have enough to deal with every day, we do not need to hear that our identity or sexuality is invalid all because you think we haven’t done enough soul searching and come to terms with who we are or who we should be according to some societal or religious rule.
“Good morning,” he mumbled.
“Good morning to you, too,” I reply quietly.
I lean over and kiss his temple. I love Ryker and everything he is. I wouldn’t want him to change. Especially, not to please some Internet Turf who doesn’t even know him. His relationship with me didn’t mean he couldn’t like girls or others, he just liked me right now. In the future and in the past, he has and will be attracted to both girls, boys, and people across the spectrum. You have to remember when you chose a label for yourself, (if labels are your thing), it’s what you feel comfortable with not what society feels comfortable with. Bisexual is not an outdated term, it’s what he feels comfortable, and identifies with. Everyone should take pride in whatever they identify as.
Ryker sat up and stretched. He started fishing for his glasses so he could see me more clearly. He looks back at me and then at the rainbow flag on the wall. He smiled at it. He looked back at me, the Leo necklace twinkling gold around his neck and green eyes beaming behind the frames of his glasses.
“What should we do today?” I ask.
He seems to consider this question carefully.
“I don’t know,” he replied after a while.
“What do you want to do? See a movie? Shopping? Walk around again? There’s a trampoline center here, we could there,” I suggest.
“The trampoline center sounds cool,” he replies.
“We should probably bring a change of clothes for after, we’ll probably get sweaty,” I reply.
“Okay,” he replies.
We get up and pack our backpacks with extra sets of clothes, our water bottles, and a couple of quarters for lockers. Ryker packs his contacts so he doesn’t drop his glasses into the foam pit and lose them for eternity. We both wear shorts and t-shirts under our weather-appropriate clothing because I know it will be warm inside once we start running and jumping around and we make sure we have our wallets to pay for our entry and meals.
The place opens at ten and if we want to beat the lines, we have to go early so I leave a note for my parents, saying that we took the car and where we are going and what time we plan to be back, at 4:00 pm.
We get into the car and I start it up and back it out of the driveway. We drive the five or six blocks to the rec center. We go inside and go up to the counter to pay. They give us the special socks so we don’t slip and the whole no running, safety speech spiel.
We go into the change room and take off our boots, coats, scarves, and mitts. We take off our pants so we are just in our shorts and shirts and stuff everything into two lockers side-by-side in a corner. We dispense our quarters inside, turn our keys, and lock them. The keys are secured around our wrists and we go out onto the floor where all of the trampolines, foam pits, and parkour obstacle courses are.
“What do you want to do first?” I ask.
Ryker looks over the place again and spots the dodgeball cages where up to ten people can play dodgeball at once with each other. Normally, in teams of five. There are five other boys about our age already inside. They appear to be playing in teams of two and three.
“Do you think they’ll let us join them?” Ryker asks.
“Only one way to find out,” I reply.
We approached the dodgeball cage door.
“Hey,” I call inside. “Can we play?”
“Sure, you two can be on that team, we have somebody coming back to be on ours,” one of the boys answers, pointing at the two-man team.
“Names?” another asks.
“Porter and this is Ryker,” I answer pointing back at Ryker.
“I’m Noah, that’s Will, Peter, Vic, Larson, and Harry should be back soon,” the boy who said we could play introduces everyone.
He has ash-blond hair and brown eyes. He’s about the same height as me. Will is Asian, has black hair and brown eyes, and is a little taller than Ryker. Peter and Vic who I’m pretty sure are twins, had dark brown hair and blue-gray eyes. I can barely tell them apart, if they were wearing the same clothes I probably wouldn’t be able to. Larson was Mexican and the tallest of all of us, at six feet.
We lined up the balls in the middle of the court and stood against the roped walls of the cage. Peter started counting down.
“Five, four, three, two, one,” he said in succession and we slide down the diagonal trampolines against the rope walls across two more trampolines to the middle where the trampolines were diagonally up again, the balls were resting at the top.
Larson and Will made it to the middle first and grabbed two balls each and back off to their respective sides so they could throw. Ryker made it and grabbed another two balls missing Vic’s throw by ducking behind the trampolines. He peaked back over before bouncing back in my direction to give me one of his dodge balls. Peter chased after the ball that Vic had thrown at Ryker. Larson threw his ball at Will. Ryker took his chance and threw the ball at Larson while he was attempting to throw his own and seeing if it had landed its mark or not.
Larson missed and was hit by Ryker’s ball. He moved off to the side, as he was out until Ryker was downed by someone’s ball.
“Nice one,” Will commented to Ryker.
“Thanks,” he replied looking around for another ball.
The game continued until I and Vic were left standing. I noticed another guy standing by the door to the trampoline cage. I recognized him, Harry Denver, he had been the quarterback at my old high school and one of the ones that threatened me if I tried anything in the change room. I despised him for spreading the news that I was gay. He was watching me. He recognized me as much as I did him.
Ryker followed my gaze when he saw that I was distracted to Harry sensing something was off. I tossed the ball at Vic just wanting the game to be over so I could leave and get out of Harry’s sight before he could say anything and turn all these guys against me or Ryker without even knowing us. I hit his shin winning the game.
“Good game,” some of them shout. I locate Ryker and make a b-line for him to ask what else he wants to do, as long as Harry doesn’t follow us we should be fine.
“Hey, fag,” Harry comments.
Ryker turns in his direction glaring. Larson and Will seemed surprised by the language. Peter and Vic glance at each other as if they just want to dissipate into the air. Noah is the only one who seems annoyed by Harry’s language.
I nod to Ryker and attempt to walk past Harry to leave but he blocks the doorway.
“Who’s this? Your boyfriend?” he questions, sizing Ryker up. “You actually found someone to love your sorry ass?”
“Stop it, Harry. That’s not cool, man,” Noah comments. “Why are you saying that even? You don’t know.”
I’ve seen a lot of people feel sorry for the way I was treated at my school but they usually didn’t find their own voice to voice that it was wrong.
“But I do. He’s the fag who used to go to my school. He was probably only on the football team so he could look at guys’ bodies,” Harry goes on.
“Even if he is gay, that’s not nice,” Noah continues.
“And what reason do you have to support them?” Harry replies.
“It’s not about supporting them, it’s about human decency. Would you like it if someone accused you of being a fag?” Noah responds. “No, I didn’t think so. So, don’t do it to them. Until you get that through your head, we’re not talking.”
Noah pushes past Harry out of the cage, he disappears off to some freestyle trick trampoline area.
Larson follows him and so do Peter, Vic, and Will, we follow them out not wanting to be left alone with Harry.
I go off to the change room and Ryker follows. The happiness I’d built in the last three months felt like it was crumbling. Julian, Greg, and Kristen were one thing and when we left the school we could separate ourselves from them. But here in my own home city where I lived and grew up and that was such a large part of my life, it was hard.
I lean against the wall near where our lockers are and sigh rubbing my face.
“Are you okay? Who was that jerk?” Ryker asked taking hold of my wrists gently.
“He used to go to my old school,” I reply honestly.
I guess he hadn’t learned or still didn’t care how much his words hurt, most people don’t until it’s too late and tragedy has struck. You can attempt to distance yourself from your words as much as you want, in the end, you still said them, you are still responsible for the damage they caused and you still have to own up to them and what they end up inflicting on others.
I was surprised the other five had not tolerated Harry’s homophobia, regardless of whether or not there was proof.
Noah came around the corner of the lockers and saw us. He seemed saddened and ashamed by Harry’s actions and words.
“I’m sorry about Harry,” he states honestly.
“It’s okay, it’s not your fault but thanks,” I reply.
“So, you’re the one the football team chased out of Silver Oak High,” he phrased it weird, not like a question.
“Yeah, my parents didn’t like the threats I was getting and I didn’t like looking over my shoulder constantly wondering if any of them were going to act on those threats,” I reply.
“Where did you move to?” he asks.
“Copper Cove Academy, it’s in Blue Hill, about two hours from here,” I reply.
“I might have to put in my request for a transfer, I’m really getting sick of Harry and his merry band of the football team and I’ve only been there for a semester,” he answers.
“It’s not much better there honestly, it’s only bearable because I met him,” I reply nodding to Ryker.
He glances at Ryker.
“Do you want to come play with us?” he asks.
“Are you sure?” I question cautiously.
“Yeah, man. It’s just who you like, you can’t help it,” he replies.
“Okay,” I reply.
“Let’s go,” he replies nodding towards the door back out to the rec center floor.
I take Ryker’s hand and gently pull him along behind me out the door back to the trampoline trick area where the other four guys are waiting.