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Chapter 28

“Devin, we should just stop pretending. I think lying about it is even worse than me being, you know.” He had used me to keep his image in front of his friends, and he had persuaded me to help him keep his façade. Why was he suddenly abandoning me when I finally needed someone to confide in? I knew I should not expect something in return for my favors, but I too was exhausted from all of the charades. “We should just tell people we are not together.”

I stared at the unfamiliar wall across from my gaze in a darkness that mirrored the strange feeling of anguish upon this request. I never thought about him loving me, but I fantasized about it. I thought one day he would realize that maybe all of his curiosity was just a distraction from me—just because I was a part of his past. No one wants to unknowingly love someone he was forced on to “pray the gay” away. I was a tool for him to solidify the idea that either he would burn in hell for an eternity or be righteous, at least in his family.

Maybe it is very heathenistic of me to never consider Heath to be punished just because of who he was, but I just never believed his sexuality had anything to do with his identity despite many others saying different. If God had an issue with Heath, then I didn’t want to be anywhere in His vicinity. Heath never would have done anything to piss Him off but just be into guys. Fuck God if He can’t take Heath the way he is.

And if God didn’t want homosexuality, He wouldn’t have created it.

I pulled myself up from the uncomfortable mattress and twisted my neck to stare at him as he walked out of the bathroom in his boxers and a soccer t-shirt, hair still wet from the shower. Why is it that people always make life-altering decisions in the shower?

Excuse me while I ponder the universe while I wash my junk.

“If you weren’t so afraid of being a faggot, you would have just told your friends already.” I switched on the light of the cheap motel he rented for the two of us.

And I knew it was wrong to tempt his anger as I knew he trembled nervously as his vulnerability to his religion became more prominent in my presence. It had been a long enough night, and I shouldn’t have murmured the slur. He had been uncomfortable with me ever since his friend (Aaron, Daniel, David, John, Nathaniel?) impolitely confronted Heath about his sexual relations with me; being abundantly flustered by this question, he immediately spat out, “No, definitely not.”

And I guess that is a half-truth. He didn’t lie; he didn’t tell the truth.

Heath and I had dragged along our emotional baggage and neglected any other luggage to burden our lives when he just called for a spontaneous evacuation of our hometown one weekend. I could hear the deafened sob in the back of his throat as he struggled to stop the outpouring emotion aching his being. “I need to leave, Devin…I…I don’t…I need to go somewhere, Devin.”

I remember hanging up the phone and just somehow envisioning this sudden need. I knew his mother knew about some of the letters he wrote to someone he loved in one of his classes, but she promised to never show Heath’s dad. It was a pact that held each of them together with thick leather straps of imprisonment. I always wondered how hurt she was to realize that all of the therapy and the counseling failed anyway; I wondered how she kept it from her husband so long. Was she upset that Heath would never have biological children with a beaming wife?

Battered and bruised, Heath abducted me from my home and just drove until he said he couldn’t stay awake anymore. It had been three hours and twenty-three minutes, and it had been six hours and thirty-eight minutes since his dad found out and beat the shit out of him. And Heath staggers at six foot four, towering over his father, but he swore he would never injure his dad if he were to find out of the counseling failures. I wish Heath did fight back. I couldn’t help but stare at the swelling around his wrist as it lay limply in his lap along with the colorful markings of consequence coming to the surface of his skin. He just said it wasn’t his father’s fault repeatedly.

“He didn’t ask for a son like me. He didn’t ask for this.”

And then I always responded, “Neither did you.”

After all, Heath confessed that it was his fault and he deserved to be punished. I just stared at him in the blunt light of his car’s clock. How could he be deserving of punishment? Here was a kid who never drank, did drugs, never promiscuous, and he was so abiding. He had an academic and athletic scholarship waiting for him at a wonderful school.

A heavy hand threw me onto the bed and pinned me into the suspect mattress, heat exploding from Heath’s pores as his anger flooded over his alabaster skin, reddening every inch of his flawless skin. His body fell on top of mine, pinning me down. His soft lips pressed forcefully into mine, and the sweet taste of his soul cascaded over my senses like the fresh warmth of the ocean. His lips folded over mine aggressively, and I couldn’t help but just want him to stay this close with me forever—even when he was scaring the shit out of me.

Abruptly, he peeled away from me, taking my breath with him; a breath I held down in my gut. “Shut the fuck up. I am no faggot. I am not any of that disgusting shit.” His hands tautened around my wrists as sweat pooled on his forehead. The crackling of his jaw echoed in the small room as his eyes slid down my torso down to the shorts he loaned me a couple years ago.

“Do it,” I dared monotonously, staring into his eyes even though he resisted eye contact. “Not because you want to, but supposedly God wants you to. Just go fuck away.”

His hands fell away from my wrists as he hesitated at my waist. He snatched my t-shirt and ripped it above my lack of breasts, unveiling my abdomen for better management of my shorts I assume. The hem of my underwear peaked from just above my soccer shorts he had grown out of so long ago. My bright sports bra conflicted with the pastel colors of my underwear, but I don’t match my undergarments. I’m not wanting company.

His anger dissipated away from his eyes as Heath’s spirit fell back into his shell. His hands fell on my stomach lightly and just stayed there as he focused on something invisible to me but totally vivid in his mind. Then, they just slid away onto the mattress and his elbows collapsed, and all of his body heat fell upon me like a human blanket.

Disgust taunted me, but it wasn’t because of Heath or the attempted rape or anything outside of me. I was repulsed by the thought that I possibly wanted him to rape me. My sub-conscience began to persuade me that if he did rape me, it was a sign. He really did want me, even if it was just physical. I wasn’t just a proxy for his other emotions. If he went through with this and defiled my body, I knew I would lose no respect for him. He would lose nothing in my eyes. Unfortunately, I felt like I had been in this situation enough to no longer care.

A droplet fell upon my chest as I gazed at his massive hands clenching the thin, stained comforter tainted with mosaics of fading flowers. His lips brushed against my clavicle as the gentle giant came apart into a small child.

“I can’t,” he whispered. “I just can’t do it.”

My eyes flickered back to his face, and my apathy disintegrated into sympathy. His green eyes hid behind a haze of tears as they seeped over the lid of his eyelashes. The muscles in his neck tensed as he deafened a heaving sob. He clenched his eyes shut and whimpered into his chest, sitting up and turning away from me, peeling away from me and slipping to the edge of the bed.

I stared at the ceiling awkwardly, leaving my mid-drift exposed to the cold, moldy air unevenly billowing through the vent. Here I was, almost raped, and I was totally accepting of it. I would have let it happen without a fight—would it then even be considered rape? Would I have fought back if it was anyone but Heath?

“I just want to be normal, Dev. I just want to be like every other guy.”

A part of me questioned if he really could have been normal if he didn’t feel attraction to his best friend. And maybe if he never met me, he would not have to hide who he was in love with. Maybe he would be accepting of himself.

I turned to him and sat up, my shirt cascading back over my abdomen. Here he was, a towering man folding his torso onto his knees contorted in despair about nothing. It was his heart. His sensitive heart cracked every time this shit happened, much like when I had an anxiety attack. At times, I would wonder why someone built like Heath was given such a frail heart, and Heath didn’t even protect it. He let anyone in and accepted anyone remotely genuine.

I sat up and crawled on my knees and hands to the foot of the bed furtively as he audibly stifled wails inside his chest. Rushes of air escaped his lungs, and he held against the urge to inhale as to protect himself from releasing a frightful scream of defiance and disappointment. “Heath,” I whispered gently. My hand slid against his right clavicle, feeling his muscles loosen under my touch like a rippling effect from my fingers.

“Dev, don’t,” he unconfidently murmured under his breath.

I placed my hands on the sides of his face and turned his mottled red face towards mine. His tears slid down his cheeks like torrents, and his eyes just fell upon my face, begging for acceptance or ownership. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry, Dev. I’m so sorry.”

I rubbed his cheek and pulled a strand of his hair away from the streams of tears. I whispered, “You are the most perfect person I have ever met. Okay?” His eyes clenched upon the word, his word, perfect.

He shook his head and strained a smile as he choked back a sob, “How can you say that when I almost…”

My lips stretched into a small smile, and I whispered, “When you almost--” His left hand traced the line of my jaw and pulled it upwards gently, “did what? You didn’t. That’s what matters. ‘Almost’ means nothing. You didn’t.”

And then his lips folded over mine, and his sweet breath fell into my lungs. His right hand cradled my neck as he rolled me beneath him once again. He pulled me tight into his body as he did the nights when I was terrified he would come back. My arms wrapped around his neck, wishing he could be with the one he really wanted to be with, but if I was the one for the night, I could be his proxy, his last resort. He peeled away for a moment, and his forehead fell against mine. I knew both of our eyes were closed as his hand rubbed up and down my spine, warmth spreading away from his fingertips like they were spigots. “I think I love you, Heath,” I whispered into his cheek. And I didn’t get an answer.

He didn’t move. I opened my eyes and saw the horror on his face, and he shouldn’t have responded that way. He knew it for so long, and I told him before this moment. He didn’t breathe. He didn’t blink. His green eyes just stared at my face. His right hand slid away from the small of my back up my neck into the crevice of my jaw and traced the side of my face lightly, falling into my hollow cheeks and then stopping at the curve behind my ear. “I’m sorry,” he whispered regretfully. My heart didn’t sink because he knew he couldn’t or wasn’t supposed to say it back; I never wanted him to ever say that phrase to me or anyone else to say it.

I shook my head, “You’re fine. It’s fine.” It was all okay, I think.

He leaned in a little closer, his lips touching mine, and whispered, “I will always.” And then his lips folded over mine again, and he held me the way I needed to feel protected, to be safe from reality.

It was funny to think that maybe I shouldn’t have said what I said because… I felt like he almost loved me. Almost.

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