Speak & Listen

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TRAUMA

TRAUMA

It was three days until the beginning of summer, everyone was geared in jubilant spirits. This, to them, meant more Lake Smith/Mouth, more sunshine and more beach although we never actually had one in the town, except in Nahoo, which was a distant native village from Belvyn about fifteen kilometres away. Theory says that there lived only one tribe: the ‘Zimbane’ tribe, who I personally believed were cannibals. Although, I was afraid that was a bit stereotypical. However, there was no logical reason whatsoever why they secluded themselves from Belvyn and other neighbouring towns.

I was still not over it. Sebastian was back, Gabriel and Ben too for the summer. Everyone was in town, but I still felt alone. I couldn’t go anywhere, but I could walk on my own without my crutches.

I dreamt about the five jocks, all the time. I’d always dream of their litres of blood on my hands, I’d also dream of the same dream of myself holding a rifle at the cemetery next to Nana’s grave, only this time, I got to shoot everyone. I’d see their pools of blood on the cemetery floor and eventually, in the same dream, I would let out a maniacal laugh. My thoughts, when I’m not dreaming but revering, would indulge in the scenes and imageries of the massacre of a large number of students. I’d find myself laughing alone, and would immediately stop myself, assuming that I was going crazy.

And these thoughts had repeated that morning, but I refused to indulge in them. I told myself I would drive around, smoke pot if I have to, to escape having to think of that day at Lake Smith, which was a month ago. I had cancelled on Mia that day, said something about mom being sick.

Speaking of mom, she was back on alcohol abuse again. Yesterday, I had found her with a bottle of vodka in her room while I cleaned around the house. She was too blacked out to hide the bottle before I noticed. She and I were not on speaking terms, and I had not seen her that much. I feared I didn’t have any other family other than my mother.

Nana, because of the ‘abomination’ she did of having an affair out of marriage(adultery), she was ostracized by her in-laws and her family, forcing her to stand on her own, get a job and support her only child, who was Cynthia, my mother. Cynthia, who got married at nineteen to David, who was also a white man, had to drop out of school as David promised heaven and earth to her. And really, they had a well-sustained relationship for as long as eleven years, and on their twelfth anniversary, Cynthia found out she was pregnant with Adrian, which is me, which David believed was a blessing.

Mom suffered from postnatal depression and later on was diagnosed with hypomania disorder. With David gone back to back on business trips, with him owning a multi-millionaire marketing business companies that dealt with global trades, making him the richest man in the town of Belvyn and Alex and at least on the top 200 of the richest men in Africa(though not from the continent), meanwhile Cynthia had to take care of me. This took a toll in their relationship, mom became aggressive and with dad gone, I would suffer the abuse.

Tears went down my face as I held the blankets on my bed close to my chest each night when mom would knock on my door, only for nothing else but to tell me about the horrible human being I was and how she would drag my ankle to the floor, only to pull me across the house, down the stairs and strangle me for no reason whatsoever. The abuse continued, silence continued as I would look into David’s eyes when he was back for vacation and asked if things were okay with me and my mother.

And I’d always hold a smile, with burning screams of tears held in my eyes and I would say “Dad, I’m okay.” He never looked beyond those words, but instead would hold me in his arms. I never cried, I knew I’d pay for that later on when David leaves again for another business trip. And David was a humble man who had an exceptional understanding for children. He didn’t want us to live in some opulent city indulging in his riches, but rather he was traditional and preferred intimacy and socialization.

Meanwhile, mom’s hypomania became more irrational and unsubsiding. I failed to reason with her when she had her episode, in fact, I would accept that I was no longer her son, as she would always indoctrinate.

Until I met Alan. when we dated, and couldn’t hide the bruises, most especially the tears. When he’d threaten to arrest my mother, I would practically beg him not to. And I loved Alan, Dad loved him too, but my mother constantly bashing our relationship tarnished our relationship. So it wasn’t just sex that ended it as I had assumed at first.

Why didn’t I report my own mother to the cops, you ask? Because I loved her. There was nothing more in the world I had other than my mother when dad was gone. His absence was a doom to me, a playtime to her.

But when David divorced her after months of fights and physical abuse, yes...mom physically abused my father, she allowed herself to get help. my nana, who she, Cynthia, deserted because of marriage, was of great help to both Cynthia’s sanity and solace. She began going to church, until Nana got sick at sixty-five because of Diabetes, then she would only drink. To escape alcohol abuse, Nana found her a job at a bakery again selling the best cupcakes and birthday cakes in town.

And I thought we were getting along, I thought we were finally getting comfortable with each other...until Nana died. That killed her all over again. She had no friends, no family and no one to vent to other than her child, who she never even checked up on after the rape incident nor Nana’s death. Who she hated and only tolerated. Not once did she check to see if I was alive. And only I left her leftovers to eat when she returned from work. And that was it...

It crippled my mind to know that the same loneliness crept to my bed too at night. One would say I had Gabriel, but honestly Gabriel wasn’t mine at all. Gabriel had a lot to deal with too. He had to break up with his girlfriend after the letters came out, he had to be honest with her but after all, it left an unresolved conflict that was as broken as a mirror. He was hurting, I could see, but he smiled just for me. He was there for me even when I didn’t ask for it. He repented and reconciled with me, only because he needed me...and I wasn’t there for him.

Yes, it had been weeks sitting in my room. I had not been scratching, I swear, however, I heard voices. Like whimpers, I, as well, heard in my dreams. In that room of mine, I would dream with my eyes wide open. I would sit on my hands and hold my screams between my teeth to stop the temptation and urge to scratch my forearms again. In that room of mine, the curtains and blinds were always closed.

I could have called Gabriel, but I had not seen him nor have I answered his calls. I’ve heard people knocking downstairs and some would knock at night, and I had no idea what Cynthia said to them. I had the same song on repeat on my sound system, it was toxic and wasn’t even about depression...but about lusting for another woman for that particular night while you have your girlfriend. The song was “Wicked Games”, by The Weeknd. It couldn’t slip off my mind. It was always there.

It was six pm’s summer, which meant that the sun was still up and shinning, but preparing its quilt for slumber when I finally decided to stand up and take a shower. I stripped naked under the shower tap as every drop went down my body, soothing and relaxing every muscle. The song disappeared for short while, and all I could hear were water drops hitting the tiled floor. I took off my bandages and washed the screaming scars on my forearms and cleaned my nails too. I didn’t stop until the stench of blood left my skin until the guilt left my conscience.

It was abnormal to cry every time, but I did. I didn’t even need a reason. It was just pleasuring to cry. And you may ask why didn’t I go out and seek for help? Because depression was like a drug, like a ghost haunting you but you’re okay with it. You’re okay with being isolated and rejected, you’re okay with dying even though you don’t really feel like killing yourself. It confused me too, hence I didn’t bother to figure out what was going on with me. But all I knew was the fact that I didn’t want to be helped, at least not yet.

I drove out, attired in my temperamental outfit. This time, again, I wore the black hoodie. I didn’t know too where I was going, but I was just driving and crying. I looked at the stereo and a pop song was playing. I found myself connecting my phone to the car’s Bluetooth, only to play “Wicked Games.” I didn’t even attempt to fight the urge that a song was stuck in my head for weeks. I even knew every instrumental used, every electronic sound, every beat per minute, every melody, every lyric...it may not seem like a big deal, but to me it was toxic.

I checked my mirrors consistently, I looked for danger. And before I could actually think of where I was, I was outside Mia’s apartment. There was a white Toyota outside her apartment, but it wasn’t hers nor his dad’s, who obviously couldn’t drive in his mental condition.

Flashback:

Mia and I had grown close after the freshman party at Gabriel’s apartment. We understood each other’s backgrounds. She was of Singaporean descent and moved out of the country when she was an infant. Her mother too had to stand up on her own after she was ostracized by her family for being pregnant before marriage. That was the most absolute abomination in her family. Plus, it was tradition not to marry a mentally unwell person.

She knew my mother abused me, I knew about her Alzheimeric father. We both had excruciating experiences in our childhood. When she disclosed it that night, when we played Truth or Dare, I already knew. I knew too that she wouldn’t be able to carry children because of the disease she suffered from.

It was just us two in her kitchen. Her dad was upstairs sleeping. Kind of reminded me of Cynthia. She was cooking, I was helping her dry the dishes. It was approaching evening, judging from the napalm skies and the lame sunshine. But I was sleeping over. She found me crying on her porch that afternoon before she took me in. I still had not told her what was wrong.

“You know...” I started, and her petite body turned to look at me. “Sophia may be my friend, but we never really had these moments...”

“What moments?” She smiled graciously.

“I don’t think I see myself crying on Sophia’s doorstep. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate her defending me when everyone was so against me coming out but...” I sighed, feeling terrible. “She isn’t as transparent. I am, to her, and it’s almost nine years knowing each other.”

She silently looked into my eyes but continued steering at her pots. “Give her time. It’s not easy to collect yourself back up when you’ve been hurt by the one person who loved you regardless of how you felt about yourself.”

I knew who she was talking about. Matthew, the only guy Sophia dated and loved before Ryan Hunter. Sophia may have seemed bold and eloquent, but she has a seriously sensitive side especially when it came to romance. She loved...HARD! And that’s what she did for Matthew, who was a Columbian thug who dealt with all types of powdered drugs. He had been into jail more than twice.

He never physically abused her, but emotionally and mentally, he did. He cheated multiple times. She would say “He said I’m fat and he wanted a skinny girl for that particular night.” And he would apologize, over and over, until Sophia went back to him. I knew what it was like to go back to your abuser, to beg them to take you back because you feel worthless without them. You feel unloved and rejected, so it was okay to stay in unrequited love. I never judged her, although she knew I hated Matthew.

When she finally decided to leave him, after he returned from jail again, arrested for battery again, she almost never healed of heartache. Carmichael, her father, was quite patient with her, walked with her through the nightmares and the urges of self-harm. No, she didn’t cut or anything...but she ate. She never stopped eating junk food, to the point of addiction whereby his father finally FORCED her to go to therapy.

I’d also be there for her, as a brother and a friend. I never gave her a reason to hate or back-stab me, not in any way. She appreciated my presence, she would say so and would show it by at least allowing me in her life during a rough patch. She recovered when she heard he was out of town, probably on a runaway from the cops. Everything probably changed when she saw him again with Ryan Hunter at the cafe.

“I guess. ” I had responded. “But thank you.”

“Want some weed before we eat?”

I groaned in splendour. “Perfect!”

We were at the back of her yard as she lit the first blunt. The smoke jumped in and jerked out like smooth jazz...and only I can make that kind of weird comparison. When I smoked the blunt again, giving it to her, I began laughing in a patronized tone.

“I remember when Alan and I broke up. I thought it was because I wasn’t comfortable with sex, or maybe he was cheating, but later on when he left...I realized I was selfish. I never listened to him, he was more than there with me. I’d call him when I wanted to escape mom when I had fought with mom once more and I would call him any time of the day and he would pick up.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Adrian. You were there for him as much as he was for you. You guys probably grew apart. It happens.”

“It happens? As in, people just stop loving each other?”

“Without effort? Hell yeah. It’s like any kind of relationship...mother-son, friendship...if there is no effort whatsoever, from both sides, to strengthen the relationship, most especially by faith...love disappears like it was never there. Alan was fucked up too when you guys began dating, you were there for him. You may feel like you didn’t do much, but it’s neither yours nor his fault. Both of you just had to grow individually and apart. So yes, it happens.”

“I don’t think I want to lose Sebastian. I love him, although sometimes I wonder if he actually does.”

“What do you mean?”

I puffed again before replying. “He never calls, never responds to my calls. He’s always busy, you know, but he does give me attention when he’s around. His reasons are logical, but how will I save this relationship this time?”

“You let things happen, Adrian. This is not your ship only, Sebestian dated you at the most inconvenient time, when Alan just broke up with you and just when you came out. Give the guy a break.” She smiled. “I know Sebastian’s a good guy, he’s not like these bad boys in town. Both of you need to make an effort to make it work, and regardless of the phone calls you’re complaining about, he does give you the attention you need when he’s physically around.”

I played with my head, admitting that Sebastian wasn’t that bad. That day, he was out of town to visit his father. But he suggested I go to Mia, hence I ended up on her doorstep. I had been abused with words by Cynthia again.

“So...I let things happen?”

“Yes. And you smoke weed too.”

We looked at each other’s high eyes and giggled. “C’mon, let’s go inside. I feel like karaoke-ing today. Indoors, of course.” She giggled.

“Oh...right.” Was she serious?

Well yeah, she was. She connected her phone to the sound system. And just when I anticipated some Hip-Hop, because she, according to her daily edgy attires, looked like she would enjoy the craft. But no, that was stereotypical. She played Wicked Games. My eyes widened.

“What? You know this song?” Mia squeaked.

“Yeah, I do. It was Alan’s ringtone. I ended up downloading and loving it.”

“Great!”

She theatrically gave me a remote as she had one in her other hand too. I was up for the fun, so I took it. We melodramatically danced like rockstars across the lounge, high as hell, singing loud to every lyric...

"EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T LOVE ME..." Mia and I screamed the lyrics, both not knowing how to sing. Well, she could sing, but she chose to rest her singing voice. “JUST TELL ME YOU LOVE ME!!!” We screamed as we had our back dramatically against each other, as I’ve said, like rockstar performers. ”ONLY FOR TONIGHT, ONLY FOR THE NIGHT! OH, OH, OH, OH..."

"LISTEN MA, I’LL GIVE YOU ALL I GOT...GIVE ME OFF OF THIS, I NEED CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF..." Our voices went higher when we got to the lines, laughing at the melodrama afterwards.

That was splendour in its most fundamental form. Pure pleasure. I believed that was, indeed, life. Having those happy moments to turn back to, like an album, to smiled with tears to look back at a time when you were once elated. Her presence, Mia, meant more than the value of a hand full of diamond to me. It meant a lot, simply, to have someone when you’re hurting to keep your world sane and okay.

When the song ended, she repeated it again and it played the entire night as we began eating dinner...

“Thanks, Mia.”

“What for? The food?” Her eyes widened.

“No. Everything.” Tears built in my eyes again.

She walked around the counter and embraced me from behind. “Don’t mention it. It’s what friends do.”

Present:

Mia emerged from the house and absentmindedly kissed a particular man who I couldn’t see properly because he was inside the house. I had driven to her house to take her out to Crane Park, even though it was past 7, there were still high school kids who hung around the place. When they both stepped out, I could finally notice the blond hair and the maroon jacket hung over Mia’s shoulders. I couldn’t explain the feeling, but it wasn’t betrayal. but pure hurt. I could almost hear my heart break.

It was Niall. They hugged before kissing, right in front of my eyes. I angrily started the ignition, which suddenly caught both their attention. Mia’s eyes widened. “ADRIAN!!!” I could hear her scream. Niall produced an evil smirk, one that pouted mockery on the corners of his mouth.

My hands boiled as I released the hand-break and maniacally sped off. My car dangerously flew through the red lights, my teeth gritting and my nails itching. I wanted to break something, like a vase or neck, something to kill. Something to completely destroy. I received a phone call, it was Gabriel.

I sighed furiously before I answered. “Gabriel?”

“Adrian, turn around. And slow the fuck down.”

“What? Are you behind me?” I checked my rearview mirror, he wasn’t.

“No, you just passed the bottle store. Go back to the bottle store.” He yelled.

I slowed down, the screech of the car wheels scared me. “I’m sorry.” For some reason, I apologized. I did a U-turn on a four-way section, heading back to the bottle store. I felt regretful and sorry as if I was called by David, my actual father. I finally got to the bottle store and parked my car. After a few seconds of fear, I got out of the car and locked.

I got inside the store and looked for him. I found him on the first, left aisle. He saw me, and his face suddenly became expressionless. I couldn’t read his face and what it meant. He didn’t even respond to my tears, just looked at me blankly. He gave me his hand. “What’s wrong, son?” He said blankly.

“I feel betrayed.” I finally wept.

“Where are you coming from, Adrian?”

I stopped weeping, confused. “Wh...I went to visit Mia, but things didn’t go so well. Why are you giving me this look?”

“...Daniel killed himself.”

Daniel was his friend from fifth grade, another recipient. He used to be my friend as well until we became strangers to each other until Gabriel and Ben would bully me again and would need protection. He’d always be first to defend me, and the only. I loved him. He was the only recipient I had true feelings for.

My eyes wetted again, I felt my heart stretching apart again. I saw tears in his eyes too, but he wanted to be there for me. He knew, Jeremiah too, how much I loved him. And we grew apart, not because I came out, but because after I came out things changed. I pushed him away.

Flashback:

“I don’t understand how you believe in zombies, but not the apocalypse. It’s like believing in the afterlife but not death. They are subsequent.” I sipped on my bubblegum milkshake as we walked in Lake Mouth, our favourite spot and the biggest lake site in the city.

He looked at me and smiled. “They are two separate things. Zombies are reincarnated, brainless corpses and the apocalypse, on the other hand, is the end of everything. The end of life on Earth. So when the world ends, you think zombies will be reincarnated or something?”

"Reanimated, Daniel...as in, raised from the dead. We all have no idea what the end entails.”

“Maybe it doesn’t matter.” He sipped on his strawberry milkshake. “Do you ever ask yourself existential questions? Like why do we exist? Is it all just a stupid prank? Is there any point at all, should there be? Or we’re supposed to bring life in a dead, purposeless world...”

“Every night.” I laughed. “But it’s not as beautiful as you’d think.”

“Let me in your head then.” He smiled graciously.

I contemplated whether I should say this. “I don’t know, Daniel. Whenever I try to sleep, my thoughts suddenly become loud...it’s like they’re my very own bully crippling my mind. If not the vile thoughts, it’s nightmares and lucid dreams.”

“Lucid dreams are cool.”

“What’s the use of being in control of everything when life is still going to take its course?” I shook my head.

“Firstly, I’m sorry you get these nightmares and thoughts...though I would appreciate you’d call me whenever that happens.”

“That means I’d have to call you every night.”

“Exactly. Secondly, lucid dreams are cool because they manifest reality and how the name ‘dream’ can be sometimes ambidextrous, dreams as in ‘what you do when you fall asleep’ and ‘a lifelong vision you have for yourself or the Universe or God has for you’. The symbolism itself depicts the fine line between reality and fantasy, how it’s so thin and so close, but as long as you still think lucid dreams are just conscious dreams then you really must be a conscious person, which is a very painful way of living.”

My eyebrow furrowed. “What’s wrong with being conscious? Conscious of every decision, conscious of your actions?”

“The control. The control we want to have over everything, on its own, is wrong. I’d tell you to never think before you jump. That’s the best way to live...to deal with your fears to become even stronger.”

I gave him a look, which made him smirk. To never think before I jump? The advice was okay, however, it was impossible to get a grip over my thoughts. They were vile. We made it to the lake’s shore. There was a wooden jump-off balcony that was approximately 8 inches above the water. My thoughts told me he was perfect, they told me to make a move on him and have sex on that wooden balcony.

He looked at me. He could see I was still chewing on what he had said, which made his smirk even cockier. He took off his swamp green t-shirt, followed by his flip flops. “You’ coming in?” He took off his summer shorts and didn’t hesitate to jump in. He knew I had a huge fear of large amounts of water, even lakes.

“Uh...definitely not,” I responded while his body was still underwater.

He sprung out of the water and his tanned skin gleamed in the lame sunset. His eyes glinted like little sparkles in the water. He swam towards me. “Come swim with me. The water’s warm.”

“It’s water. Dirty lake water, Daniel.” My eyes rolled.

“See? You’re too conscious about things, even about simple things to enjoy in life.” He continued to swim towards me. He sprung out again, leaning on my legs with his wet arms. His eyes looked at me, I was sitting with my legs crossed and hanging over the 8 inches below water.

“You’re getting me all wet, Daniel.” I wanted to push him away, but his face above my thighs was just so beautiful.

In an instant, he pulled my upper body and my body emerged in water. I felt like I was dying, although I had been able to hold my breath and close my eyes under the water. Daniel’s hands lifted me up above the water and I was floating. I looked at him, I was still gasping. “DANIEL!” I whispered under my breath.

“Just relax...” He whispered. His arms wrapped around my waist. His right hand supported my back. “You’re okay?”

I was hyperventilating, but I was okay. “Yes, I’m okay.”

He was so close to me, I wanted to ask him to leave me alone, but I needed him to keep me afloat. He looked into my eyes, so deep in the colour of my eye and it created large amounts of chills down my spine. “Tell me your thoughts.”

I snorted, knowing for sure I could never do that. “I can’t. They’re too vile. And they’re far from the person I am.”

“You know your thoughts are not you, but how you feel...right?”

“So you want me to tell you how I feel?”

“No, your thoughts. Every word.”

I blinked multiple times like I was reactivating my thoughts. They came in large amounts, like whispers and yells. “Well...one thinks we’re standing too close and Sebastian is on the other side of the forest. And second, they think I still hate swamp water, another wants me to attack and kiss you, fuck you on the balcony...actually, eat you on the balcony because they, or maybe I, think you’re exceptionally beautiful and intelligent...which they think the combination is rare. Plus...”

“They think I’m intelligent?” He blushed.

“Don’t push it, Daniel. Thoughts and feelings aren’t always sincere.”

He nodded, disagreeing. He looked into my eyes again and held in a giggle. He knew it was making me nervous. We were still floating on the dirty lake water.

I looked away from his eyes. “Daniel...”

“I won’t do shit without your permission, man.”

“If you ever did shit, what would that make you?” I looked at him in his eyes. His eyes looked away, we had had the conversation before and it had always led to this...the long silence as if I had pushed him away.

“Does it matter?” His breath from his lips stuttered.

“It does, Daniel.”

“Why does sexuality matter to you?” He whispered.

“Because I can’t do anything, I can’t express myself to someone who can’t be transparent to me, especially about their sexual attraction towards me.”

“And you love him? Sebastian?”

He knew I didn’t. He was a pretty long-haired stud with black leather jackets and toothpicks with cigarette smoke, which made him painfully gorgeous, however he was nothing but a puppy. He literally worked for Josh, jumped and danced to his guitar and it was pathetic. He wasn’t, at all, intelligent. “No.” I whispered.

“And let’s say I was out and Queer, do you love me?” He whispered in a baritone voice. He knew I thought we were standing too close and it made me nervous, hence he did it and spoke too close to me. Because he knew, confidently, that his breath smelt good.

“Daniel...”

“Adrian...give me the answer your thoughts had about my question.”

“Daniel, this is becoming ridiculous.” My eyes rolled. “And how am I comfortable for this long in water?” I screamed nervously.

“Adrian...” I looked at him. “Give me an answer.”

“As a fr...”

“Not as anything. Give me an answer...yes or no. It’s easy.” He smiled like he was okaying me breaking his heart.

“I...”

"They...remember?” He laughed softly and held my waist firmly this time.

My eyes rolled. ”They think...I do. Love you.”

He lifted up my chin with his one finger and grinned. “That’s it. That’s all I needed to hear.”

“They want to know...” My eyes hesitantly looked back at his. “If you feel the same way too.”

He snorted with a smile. I could feel his pants, his enormity, grow against mine which made mine grow. His hands cupped my buttocks underwater, which made my body vibrate. He smiled. ”I...”

He became silent, all so suddenly. His eyes looked at the shore, which I traced. Sebastian was standing in silence on the mud swamps barefoot. He smiled once and took another step forward. “Since when does Adrian know how to swim?”

“Not really. I’ve been keeping him afloat for the past forty minutes now.” Daniel responded casually.

“With his clothes on?” Sebastian laughed.

“Yeah, I wonder how did that happen.” I shot a glance at Daniel, who was still holding my buttocks underwater. “I’m getting cold too.”

“Gabriel wanted me to see if you guys wanted any hotdogs.”

“We’ll be right over,” Daniel replied with a genuine smile, one without guilt.

Sebastian nodded and disappeared. I looked at Daniel who still held a smile. “That was close,” I whispered.

“Yeah.” He made our lips touch on purpose, but we didn’t kiss. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

Present:

“Does it still hurt?” Gabriel touched my face, scrutinizing every bruise on my face.

I nodded. The bruise was only on my left cheek and they weren’t that many. However, my body was covered in tattoos of purplish and red colours of bruises and cuts. We were in my room, on my bed. Cynthia was called by Mrs Jolie, our principal, but her response was ‘I’m out of town’. I too had no idea she was.

I stood up and walked around the room in silence. I suddenly thought of the letters when I saw the pen and paper on my dressing table. I furiously grabbed the paper, hyperventilating, and tore it into simplest pieces and threw the pen down, only to tramp on it multiple times. I shrieked in anger and extreme rage, grabbing my diary from the dressing table and I furiously tore out every page from the book.

“Adrian, stop.” Gabriel stood up from the bed.

“IF IT WASN’T FOR THESE STUPID LETTERS, AND THESE STUPID, FUCKING FEELINGS!!!” I screamed as I now tramped on my own diary. Gabriel pulled me back, locking me from behind, which condensed my fury to tears. “DANIEL WOULD STILL BE FUCKING ALIVE!!!”

I just lost it, I sobbed out loud in pain. He hugged me, chained me, from behind as I dissolved next to my bed on the floor. I was sobbing beyond my control. I hated being that vulnerable, being that useless and being that furious.

“I’m sorry, Adrian.”

“None of this is your fault, nor Sophia’s. Why did I even write those letters? What? Did I think I was some sort of attraction god?”

“You helped people by writing those letters.”

My eyes rolled. “And ruined some.”

“That overweighs the good.” He hugged me, still from behind, before letting me go. He knelt right in front of me. “Who knew I’d ever come out as bi, Jeremiah is openly Queer, Benjamin’s gay too, Elijah’s gay too...”

“You’re not making a point at all, Gabriel.”

“I’m saying, your letters gave us all something to say. Some told us you still care, some compelled us to come out, some gave us a choice. William chose not to come out, Chris and Brandon may be straight, but you showed them you still care about them...we all had something to say, but it had nothing to do with having a problem with your sexuality. Most of us just felt scared and exposed.”

I sighed. I understood. “But above everything, I just can’t believe Sophia would something like this to me. It’s been a full month, we’re about to close school for summer vacation and she still hasn’t said anything to show remorse or regret.”

“What if she doesn’t regret it?”

“...Then I’ll just have to move on...without her.” I said absentmindedly.

A knock came from the door. “I’ll get it.” He kissed my cheek.

“Eew,” I whispered. He snorted with a hidden smirk. He disappeared. I cleaned the torn papers and the broken pen. The tantrum, regardless, felt really good and relaxing.

I heard footsteps getting in. I looked up again as I sat on my bed, and my heart boiled again. It was Gabriel, accompanied by Mia. I looked away from her, disgusted.

“Adrian...” She whispered.

“What do you want, Mia?” I sighed.

“I’m sorry for what you saw.”

“I don’t think that’s what you should be apologizing for. I don’t think should be apologizing at all, what you did showed that you took a stance. So I don’t appreciate you coming to my house to sympathize with me.”

She walked towards me. Gabriel was still standing by the door. “Adrian...he won’t let me go.”

I looked at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Niall. He’s been abusing me for almost seven months since we dated. It was before I realized he was a jerk to you and everyone. You were not the only one.”

My eyes widened. “What does he have against you?”

She began weeping. “My father’s life. He threatens to kill him. Adrian, he has raped other men and women before. Julie...Sandra...Kate...Calvin. There are so many girls, and boys, from Clever Cats he had done the same thing to. I’m asking you to help me.”

“Sophia and those letters...were you behind it too?”

She shook her head with widened eyes. “I would never do such a thing. Adrian, I had always been a good friend to you. Whatever Sophia did, I was not part of it. I was going to tell you that I was dating Niall, but after knowing the things he did, I had to keep a distance from you. That’s what he said.”

“And now? How are you here?”

“His parents took him back to Clinton Hills after his expulsion.”

“He’s expelled?” My voice squeaked. I just couldn’t believe the school at least tried to do something.

“Yeah.” She smiled, a bit. “Gabriel and Adrian, I need your help to take Niall and the rest of the jocks down. The bastard still hasn’t received the justice he deserves.”

Gabriel walked towards me and crouched to my level. “Look, I’m not going to be involved in something you don’t want me to be a part of. You get to decide, it’s your life.” He stuck out his hands, looking at me.

“Can I think about it?”

“Yeah. See you later.” She nodded and looked at Gabriel, also giving her a nod then walked out. She looked victimized and wasn’t the same bubbly Mia I knew. She showed despair and despondency in her eyes now, with no glint of light in her eyes like she used to. I knew I had to do something.

“Dad?” I said, to Gabriel.

He was still crouched in front of me, with his hands still stuck out to me. “Yes, son.”

“Can you stay for the night? Cynthia won’t be back anytime soon.”

He smiled. “Yeah. Can I take a shower? I think my hair stinks.” He played with his hair.

“Your hair is perfect. I can borrow you some of David’s pyjamas, I think they’ll fit.”

He nodded. I opened the shower water for him. He entered the bathroom and stripped off his shirt. His back was muscular and wide, lumps of muscles moved when his arms and neck moved. He took off his belt, and that’s when I knew it was my cue to leave. “I’ll leave you right to it, then.” I whispered.

I glided out of the bathroom and went downstairs to prepare dinner. I played some Opera music on the sound system, which managed to relax my mind. I prepared a small lasagna feast with all kinds of vegetables. Well...I didn’t prepare meat because a) he was a gym freak and b) he was a vegetarian.

When I was done with dinner, Gabriel descended from the stairs, hearing from the footsteps. “Dinner will be ready by 8, which is ten minutes from now.” I smiled as I turned, only to be blinded.

“Where can I find your deodorants and lotions?” He scratched his head. He only had a white shower towel on. I could see his feet, legs and the rest of his upper body. Even the towel occupied a small amount of skin, as he was large. His body looked like a greek god’s. It scared me.

“Oh my goodness, wear something,” I spoke under my breath, looking away from him with shut eyes.

“Argh, you’re being dramatic.”

“They’re in one of the drawers from my dressing table. Now...disappear.” I rapped, desperate that he’d get out of my sight.

“O-kay. I’m going now.”

I heard his footsteps walking back upstairs. I sighed a large amount of breath, looking at my surged pants afterwards. What did that mean? Was it the physique that aroused me or just him? Why did I hold my breath? Was it because I was afraid of catching his after-shower odour I knew very well? One that smelled like bad boy violence, which I somehow liked.

No, actually. His smell was a unique cologne that reminded me of cherries and buttercups. If I was someone else, I would have grabbed and sniffed the aroma from him. It, alone, was attractive. No, I was only disturbed by the beautiful physique and I shouldn’t be thinking too much about the boner. It meant nothing.

I realized that it was stupid of me to stand in the kitchen and thinking of the reasons for my boner, but I just couldn’t shake it off. To distract myself, I dished up dinner for Gabriel and I. He came back downstairs and he was wearing one of my dad’s The Simpsons pyjama top and sweatpants. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. They fit him perfectly.

“Thank you for the clothes.”

“They fit you perfectly,” I said tamely.

He scoffed with a smile. He sat down on the table and gave him his plate and took mine as I sat down opposite him.

I felt tears of joy in my eyes. I watched him eat, I watched him wipe the sides of his mouth with a napkin, like my dad. I watched him chew in silence because he hated conversation while eating...like my dad.

He finally looked at me and his eyebrow lifted. “You’re not eating.”

I looked at my plate, for some reason I thought I was. “I...I’m not really hungry.”

“You dished a whole plate for yourself. I can eat the veggies if you want.” He smiled with his eyes looking directly at me. That’s what David would do too.

“No...I’ll eat later on.”

“Okay.” He smiled. “The food’s great, by the way.”

“Thank you.”

“You’ sure you’re okay?”

I shook my head.

He stuck out his hand. “You’ want to talk about it?”

I took his hand. “I didn’t realize how much I missed David ’til you wore those pyjamas.”

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry.” He took his hand from me. “I’ll take them off.”

“That’s the thing...I want you to wear them. They look perfect on you.” I said absentmindedly. “You do everything like him, how you wipe your mouth when you eat, how you don’t talk while chewing...you smell like him.” I reminisced but remembered he was in the room. “I’m sorry for displaying my dad insecurities like this.”

“It’s an honour actually. Well...funny enough, you remind me of mom too. How you always panic over everything, how you fidget, you bite your lip when you’re nervous or trying to remember something. You smell like coconut oil, just like her. At first, it used to upset me. But now I like it.” His mother died when he was ten.

I held his hand again. “I...”

“You’re sorry?” He laughed. “Yeah, and she’d be sorry for things that were not her fault too. Don’t be, as I said, I like it.” He grinned. “Let’s smoke weed tonight. Just the two of us. And we can listen to Sade.”

I smiled. “Gabriel, I haven’t smoked weed since last year.” Last time I smoked weed was with Mia at her apartment.

“We both need it anyway. Do you have anything else to do, then? Spector?” He smirked.

“Not really. Okay, let’s do it. Only if we’ll stay indoors.”

“You have my word.”

I decided I would eat after the session. He fed me from his dish, he knew I hated being fed. I thought it wasn’t, at all, romantic. We went to the backyard, it was already dark. I had no idea why he held my hand, but he dragged me all the way.

We lit the blunt and exchanged, and the next minute, I found myself laughing with him. It was all just memories and ’do you remember when’s. We were talking about everything else in the world, from serious existential questions to casual, throwback memories. We went back inside, and we connected his phone to the sound system.

He liked retro soul, likes of Sade, Billy Paul, Rachelle Ferrell, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Solange and so on. So we played ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ by Billy Paul, and all so suddenly, maybe it was the high, he stuck out his hand to me. We were in the lounge.

I looked at him with a nervous smile. “What is it?”

“Dance with me.”

“Isn’t that cheesy?”

His eyes rolled. He instantly grabbed my hand, pulling me to his body. When I was finally too close to him, his one hand wrapped around my waist as one held my free hand. We jerked back and forth, just like how a bride would have the last dance with her father. “See? It’s just moving back and forth.”

“Which I still find cheesy.” I lied, there was just a connection I was trying to miss. I wondered why Gabriel was doing this to himself, pulling me closer with every stunt to make sure I fall for him.

“You find everything cheesy.”

My head automatically rested on his chest. I could feel his head weighing over mine. He held me even closer, caressing my hair with his thick fingers. I began weeping in silence as the song played, reminiscing of the times David and I would do exactly the same thing: dance at the lounge while his jazz tunes played from the sound system. I could smell his odour now, I was so close to him.

He had me around his finger, I was at my most vulnerable. I thought more of David, the nights he’d drive a hundred kilometres an hour on our late-night cruises because he knew I hated fast speeds, the days we’d go to the mall even though he knew I hated it. How he would hold my hand when I didn’t want him to and how he embarrassed me all the time by telling sexual and uncle jokes to me and my friends...

And it’s funny how I yearned his uncle jokes, his embarrassing moments now. Even the slightest yellings, although I barely got any from him, the scary thrills he would put me through and the anxieties he’d make me go through...such as holding his hand in a public mall. I wanted him to dance ridiculously when his rock tunes from his disbanded band Black Alaska played, I wanted to smell his cigarette stench again and the smell of aftershave...he knew how much I loved it and would let me put my face on his and rub it against his.

I looked back into reality and I saw Gabriel, who my dad admired despite his flaws. He was exactly what I needed in a man. A man who asks for consent, a man who would always consider my best interests and would always make me feel as if I have a say and authority to speak my mind. Gabriel gave me liberty.

But he was a college kid with college things to do. He was older, and David still found him absolutely perfect for me. David knew about both Alan and Sebastian, and never liked any of them as much as he loved Gabriel.

Flashback:

“We’re just going to grab drinks with the boys, he’ll be back by Sunday afternoon sober...I promise.” Gabriel had said, with David at the lounge attired in his typical The Simpsons pyjamas. It was a Friday night, the second semester after I had broken up with Sebastian after he had cheated on me with Kate. I got very depressed those days, Gabriel insisted on taking me out.

We were going to Lake Mouth, his favourite spot. And this was before the bullying, but I was already out. It wasn’t the coming out that started the bullying, as I’ve said, but that night I kissed Ben while playing Truth or Dare.

“Gabriel,” I spoke behind my teeth. “I don’t drink.”

“Yes, you do.” My dad and Gabriel sang together. I had no idea he, David, knew I drink.

My eyes rolled. “Whatever dad.”

“Just protect my son at all costs, okay?” David’s tone suddenly became parental. “BECAUSE IN LAKE MOUTH, PEOPLE LOSE THEIR VIRGINITIIIIES.” He sang out loud, losing all parenthood that was in his voice.

“DAD!” I yelled.

Gabriel giggled. “I’ll make sure he keeps that too.”

“Are we seriously discussing my virginity right now? Is that even legal?” My voice squeaked.

“You are so dramatic. C’mon, let’s go drama queen. Thanks again, Mr Spector.”

“David.” Dad corrected. “You break my son, I break you. Same applies to you too, Adrian.”

“So if I break myself, you’ll break me?” My eyes squinted.

David and I shared a glance, then looked back at me like they were seeing an idiot. They took my sarcasm too literally, of course, I understood the joke...I think. “We’re gone.” Gabriel shook his head as he went out of the house.

“Hey, son...” David whispered.

I turned and looked. “What is it, dad?”

“I like this one. Have fun.” He did oral sex gestures, the one with the open mouth and fist and the tongue.

My eyes widened. “HE’S NOT MY...” I groaned, feeling embarrassed again. I stormed off.

Present:

I didn’t know our eyes were locked in position, but Gabriel’s brown eyes were looking directly at mine, with his one arm still wrapped around my waist, with now his one hand on my face. He laughed silently and once, then trailed off with just a smile. I was so nervous.

I found myself holding tight to his pyjama top as if I was in pain of the butterflies flapping vigorously in my stomach. His face descended towards mine and like gravity, I was pulled towards him and I don’t know how, maybe it was still the high, but we kissed. Passionately.

Next minute, we were in my room upstairs. It felt like a dream or a hallucination. The music from downstairs was still audible, which made Lana Del Rey’s tunes feel extra theatrical, opportunistic to the moment. He placed me on my bed as we continued kissing. “Is it okay?” He whispered.

I could have stopped him if I didn’t want him to. “Yeah.”

His pyjama top stripped off him, mine included. Our pants stripped off as well. I could feel his warmth, his power over me. And that’s the thing...I just didn’t feel, at all, suffocated by his mass on me. I let him be on top, I let him dominate and I let myself be the neck of the head, patrolling and controlling every move.

His lips descended to my neck, as both our boxers stripped off us. “Are you sure?” He repeated.

“Yeah.” Under a spell, under the trance I was under, I agreed.

I didn’t know when he wore the condom, but I felt my legs being lifted up and put on his large shoulders. He looked directly at me as his enormity entered. I assume I winced multiple times, accompanied by gruesome moans. My pain brought him gratification and pleasure like he wanted me to moan even louder.

As much as I thought I would be bitter towards the institution of sex, I wasn’t. It was consensual. Sex was such a masochistic act, as the high of scratching your arms, but instead in the form of a person. The pain itself came with overweighing pleasure that made you oblivious to the agony. Our eyes locked as we penetrated and held firmly our hands together. It was as if I was connecting with a soul, amalgamated into one. Like how I envisioned marriage. Yes...sex felt like marriage. Yeah, even I didn’t know what I was saying.

I moaned louder as the excitement and speed increased. He produced little egoistic moans that he held behind his teeth.

“Adrian...Adrian, I’m cumming!” He screamed, finally.

I was about to ejaculate as well. “DON’T...FUCKING TELL ME THAT!”

He roared as his body began vibrating, and so did mine. And not at all was my penis touched or jerked. The sex talent Gabriel had was exceptional. He bit my ear and cried even more in my ear, which aroused me even more. His body de-energized and I could feel his weight on me again. I caressed his naked back as he finished ejaculating. He afterwards, laughed senselessly.

I also found a reason to laugh. He got off me and laid beside me with both our eyes facing the ceiling, still holding one hand with the other under the blankets. “I almost lost my cum because of your reply. Damn, you’re mean.” He whispered wearily,

“Yeah, it was a bit too weird to hear that.” I laughed. “Is that how you fucked all these women?”

“Hell yeah. You liked it?” He suddenly spoke in a deep baritone voice.

“It was my first time...and I have to say...that was fucking amazing.”

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