Speak & Listen

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It was the closing day for the first semester and everyone was at school. I had just parked my car at the lot outside, emerging from the car. But something was different that day, despite being the marching day to the ceremony for the burial of Daniel and the five ‘victims’ that were killed in Lake Smith.

Mom had returned last night, the day after Gabriel and I...had sex. The next morning, he left a note saying he ‘had to run’ and he loves me. It scared me to know that I had had sex with a person capable of abandoning me the following day. His disappearance made it feel like a one-night stand of some sort like I was one of his bitches who gave him good sex and he disappeared on them.

Or I could be possibly thinking of the worst. Gabriel loved me too much to betray me for sex. And what would his motives be? To hurt me? Because he grew cold feet when he saw me asleep next to him naked and didn’t want the awkward moment of talking things out and the ‘last night was a mistake’ cliche from the movies.

But I had managed to give him the benefit of the doubt, although he never called ever since he left. I never called either. I figured whatever he left for was of utmost importance and he’d explain it to me as he does with other things. Regardless, that night was nothing else but amazing.

And I would keep on looking at myself in the mirror and I would picture myself naked in front of him again. The memory made me cringe at first, knowing that I had allowed myself to be that vulnerable, however, the bliss of it all just made it seem happily memorable.

That day I was attired in black, just like the posters said, and we would peacefully march to the Belvyn Cemetery by foot. I walked inside the building of Clever Cats and yes, I was right, something did feel different.

And just as I suspected, there was a huge poster pasted in the locker’s passage, with a picture of JULIE, NAKED. It looked like a thumbnail to some sex tape. There was also a red painting at the bottom titled ’YOU’RE NEXT”.

Fear began growing on me too. One that began with slow hyperventilations. I could hear my own heartbeat in my ears, thumping vigorously. I quivered where I stood, as students took pictures of the poor girl in the poster. Everyone was laughing, oblivious to the same the poor girl had been put through.

“Adrian...” Jeremiah, out of nowhere, appeared.

“I’m fine, Jeremiah.” I wasn’t. The room was spinning.

“C’mon...” He took my lame body, it seemed as if he was carrying me, and we got into Mr Word’s empty class. He stood right in front of me with his face directly in front of mine. I began to sober.

“Jeremiah,” I whispered his name.

“You’re okay?”

I nodded. “Where’s Julie?”

“She left.”

“God, she must be feeling terrible.” I shook my head, relating to the humiliation. “Have you seen Gabriel?”

“He left town like a day or two ago, said he had things to take care of. Why?”

I shook my head, hesitantly. “No reason.”

“Benjamin was looking for you.”


“I don’t know. He just didn’t seem okay.”

I nodded. Who was okay in a time like this? It was quite understandable. “When’s the march?”

“An hour from now.” He held my hands. “God, you’re still shaking.”

“I’m okay, Jeremiah. I promise.”

He knew he was not going to finish the battle, but he did keep his hands on mine. He sat down in front of me. “Is it true? Gabriel slept at your crib?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Did you guys...”

“Jeremiah, I don’t think I should be talking about this.”

“That you guys had sex? I thought you saw him as your brother.”

“Things happened, okay? One minute we were smoking weed then we had sex, the following day he left.” My voice saddened a bit.

“Gabriel would never do that to you. He’ll probably explain everything later when he gets back. Did you try calling him?”

“That’s the thing...we haven’t called each other. It was probably weird for both of us but...I think it was amazing.” I shrugged.

“Wait...you were okay with having sex with him? Does that mean you’re okay with...having sex now?”

“It felt different. Maybe it’s because it was Gabriel.” I now felt awkward talking about it. “How do you even know about the sex part?”

“You just told me.” He smiled. “I’m happy you’re not holding yourself back anymore.”

“You’re happy?”

“It means you’re getting better...you’re men-trusting again and that gives me an opportunity once Gabriel flops.” He neared with his tongue stuck out.

“JEREMIAH!” I whisper-yelled. “You’re going to make things awkward again and...” I trailed off. “I don’t think I want to lose you.”

“I’m not going anywhere...until you ask me to.”

I laughed. “That’s not anytime soon, Chad.”

Benjamin entered and saw me, when he did, he almost sprinted to me. “Adrian, can I talk to you?”

“I’ll leave you two.” Jeremiah stood up and walked out.

Benjamin sat in front of me. I saw the frustration in his eyes. “When you...came out? How was it like back home, with you?”

“Uhm...I guess it was only David that accepted it at first, then mom...although she only tolerates me and doesn’t really pay much attention to me. David, my dad, divorced my mother like a year ago and got remarried so it feels...a bit lonely. Personally, I feel weird...like it wasn’t worth it. I know I helped a lot of people with those letters, some people came out and finally expressed themselves however...it’s conflicting. From here, I have now I have no idea what to do.”

He nodded. He had tears in his eyes. “I had to break up with my girlfriend first, I had to tell my parents that I am gay and that didn’t end well too. Both didn’t accept me because it doesn’t go with our religion...They kicked me out and I live with Sophia now. I, personally, had been feeling a pang of deep sadness and heavy weight on my shoulders...I even quit the football team because my grades were dropping. It doesn’t feel worth it at all.” Tears left his eyes.

I used my thumbs to wipe his tears. “Listen to me, I may regret coming out but I can assure that the experience, being gay, is not at all a mistake. I know you’ve always felt different, but this is what you get in life...confusion after confusion when things begin to make sense. But above everything, find the will to stay alive, okay?”

He nodded like a child. “I didn’t know who else I could talk to, I thought you’d still be angry at me...I deserve that. But I couldn’t share this with anyone but you. So thank you.”

“It’s all good, man.” I smiled.

“Can I ask you something?”

I looked at him. “Yeah?”

“You said in the letter ‘you don’t love me because you can’t change me’. Now that I’m exactly what you dreamed or envisioned I would be...I’m openly gay too and I wonder...do you feel a different way?”

What was going on with me? If I couldn’t date Jeremiah, receive sexual gratification from Gabriel...what the hell did I want? The letter I wrote for Benjamin was recent, the most recent, and I meant my words. The gesture of writing him a letter alone was enough to admit that I did feel some sort of way for him. Does this mean I liked the kiss? Did I find his character attractive?

Benjamin was simple to love. His vulnerable side, his pain of feeling different and his extra-emotional page just made him even more adorable. I just didn’t admit anything to myself...but what did this make me? A whore? A hypocrite?

His hair was a combed James Dean sunkissed hairstyle, although he never really combed his hair usually, always attired in formal shirts and tight jeans. His attire was too formal for school, but he wore it every day. His face was a very smooth pale colour, with beautiful crystal blue irises. He always had a weirdly hypnotizing smell of cherries, like if his skin was close enough, I would have at least bit it off him.

But I couldn’t tell him the truth. I couldn’t invite him in uncertain of how things between Gabriel and I were. I also didn’t want to wait.

But the reason why I thought Benjamin was an ideal soulmate, or something romantic like that, was because nothing about his physical appearance seemed dark or gloomy. He was a smooth-talker who barely could lift his voice. He was charismatic, even for that one night I wrote him a letter, and understood pain. I believed that if you know pain, you would never even wish it on your worst enemy.

“Benjamin...don’t do this,” I whispered.

“I need answers, Adrian. I need to know if you feel the same way. I kind of think it’s unfair to you to feel some type of way for me but you’re holding it back for some reason. All I’m saying is...” He stood up and closed the door, then walked back to me. “Tell me now. Whatever you wanted to tell me that night, that moment after we kissed, and when you wrote that letter.” He sat down and relaxed, waiting.

“Gabriel and I...we...”

“What? You two are dating?”

“No...but we had sex. He left a note the following day and it’s confusing me. I don’t know what it meant, but he had a few things to take care of...and he loves me. I feel like sitting around and wait for him to return so we can talk about it...but part of me doesn’t want to anticipate something beyond sex.”

He shook his head. “Whatever you did with Gabriel, honestly, has nothing to do with me. I’m saying tell me everything...I’ll see what to do from there. You’ll make a decision.”

I fidgeted, playing with my fingers. My eyes shut tightly as I recited. “I...would say that I wanted to kiss you again that night, but I didn’t want to push beyond a dare. Your laugh, your eyes and smile are a god-perfect creation. Your story of knowing how it is to be left out, and you said all that to make me feel better? You even came to me today because you couldn’t trust anyone else but me...that just makes me fall for you even more. I actually do love you, but sometimes I compare you...

I just wish I could spend more time with you, to understand you and later on, to trust you. I’ve lost so much trust because of what people always do to me. Jeremiah can’t control his anger, Gabriel abandoned me...that all makes me panic, but I do want to give it a shot again...and I think I’m done...talking.” I felt like the speech was too long. My eyes reopened.

Benjamin was crying again, wiping his tears. “Adrian...you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for you to say these words.”

I hyperventilated for a couple of seconds. “You’re crying! Oh my word, I’m so sorry.”

Benjamin scoffed with a smirk. You’re apologizing? You know I have a crush on you too.”

I laughed out loud. “Get out of here!”

“I’m serious.” He laughed in his controlled baritone voice. “You remember back in seventh grade, you didn’t have a date for Valentine’s day and I bought you a rose with a note saying ‘One day...B’?”

“That was you?” I laughed with my face covered.

“Yeah. The very same day, we went on a field trip to Crane Park and I was sitting right next to you. I don’t think you knew me but...while you slept on William during the trip, I wanted to kiss you so fucking bad, man. I mean, you were right there!” He screamed.

I laughed out loud. Once again, my head filled with positive memories. It felt good to reminisce about only good things for a change. “The reason why Sophia took you to that cafe was to introduce me to you, and you thought it was because of Jeremiah. Of course, she didn’t know I have a crush on you.” He added.

“What?” I laughed. “Sophia has been...” My face bittered and my eyes widened. I paused for a noticeably long time, denying the thoughts that began overflowing in my head.

“What is it?” He still had a smile on his face.

“Do you think Sophia did this because she was jealous?”

His eyes rolled. “Adrian, don’t be ridiculous.”

“I mean...think about it. That night, everyone thought I was going to kiss Jeremiah but I kissed you. After the letters came out, not even once did she apologize nor try, at least, to show sympathy. She was unremorseful about everything.”

“Adrian...the more you try to obsess about reasons why she betrayed you, you will never find the peace you deserve. Those letters, some way or the other, had to come out. I had the letters with me for almost two weeks, you could have remembered your key and Sophia could have stopped the frenzy but everything had to happen. And fuck everyone who thinks what you did, which was writing honest feelings, was bullshit.”

I nodded with a lame smile. “I have to let go. I try, I do every day.”

“You’ll get there...but after everything we spoke about today, this morning, I definitely want the honour of getting to know you. I also want to understand your love for me but for what it’s worth...”

The door opened, but we both ignored it. “I love you.”

“You WHAT!?” Gabriel’s voice screamed across the room. He closed the door behind him.

“He loves me,” I said, awkwardly. “You, on the other hand, were gone. You left me a note. You never called.”

“You think calls are cliche.” He answered calmly.

“I THINK NOTES ARE CLICHE TOO! Gabriel, why would you disappear like that?” I yelled.

Gabriel’s head lowered. “I had an appointment with my urologist. It’s embarrassing to tell you over the phone or in a note, hence I left without say. I most definitely couldn’t wake you up because you’re the most impolite person on mornings. So I left. Why? You thought I’m not coming back?” He walked around theatrically.

“Yes, actually.” I sighed.

Benjamin cleared his throat. “And I know you never really liked me, Gabriel, but I love him. You love him too and we both want what’s best for him.” Benjamin interjected. “So, despite the fact that you two had sex...”

“FUCK! ADRIAN! YOU TOLD HIM WE HAD SEX?” Gabriel’s hands covered his face.

“I felt awkward, okay?” I fidgeted.

Gabriel sighed. “Son...It’s going to be weird saying this in front of Benjamin, but as much as I’m glad we had a great time that night but...I don’t ever want you to feel as if you can’t move on and love someone else because of sex. I’ve had sex before and although the sex was good, however, it isn’t everything.”

My eyebrow furrowed. “So what does this mean? The sex doesn’t mean we’re...?”

Benjamin and Gabriel laughed. Gabriel caressed my head. “Son, sex isn’t everything. Sex should not be the reason why you can’t be happy. So no, we’re not dating, but you can hit me up when Benjamin Tennyson ain’t hitting it right.” He laughed, making sex gestures.

“And you thought you having sex with Gabriel would stop me from dating you?” Benjamin added.

My eyes, my innocent eyes widened. “I thought y’all would do some dramatic extravaganza that would embarrass you both. Well...”

“Yo, dude...want a threesome?” Benjamin asked Gabriel, interrupting me.

“Yeah, sure. That’d be awesome, dude. You have lube?”

My eyes widened even more. “Wait a fuckin’ second. Not at all did I consent to this! Jesus Christ!” I covered my face. They high-fived.

As much as I admired the casualty in their conversation, I questioned the over-protectiveness I had over Gabriel. The fear of separation. Benjamin was there, yes, but I still wanted Gabriel to talk to me, give me attention and never leave my sight. I was brainsickly obsessed with him and the sex we had. Although it was hard to admit it to both him and myself.

But I wanted to try loving Benjamin as my lover, I think.

Just like I thought, Benjamin literally scared me with a stolen kiss. He then kissed patiently and passionately as his arms wrapped around my waist. We were in front of Gabriel, who still hated it when another guy tried hitting on me...let alone kiss me.

“THE FUCK ARE YOU TWO DOING?” He literally separated us until we were physically apart. Benjamin and I laughed. Gabriel gave me a reprimanding look, one that was actually serious. It disturbed him very much when another guy tried moves on me.

The school bell rang erratically for a long time. Usually, they did that to prepare us for emergencies and danger, such as the school burning, however, the bell ringing was to announce that it was time to assemble.

We all assembled outside the school. The cloud cover was crazy and insinuated rain. Sophia passed by and gave me a stinky look, one that wanted to punch my balls. It scared me. She disappeared with her group of friends.

She was now friends with her enemies. This assured me she was jealous.

A car screeched at the gateway, which caught everyone’s attention. It was a black Audi A3, one that looked so familiar. I wasn’t sure who it was anyway until he got out of the driver’s seat. I still remembered his aura around the school, however, it changed when we came out. But the crowd screamed, regardless, when they saw him. They cheered as if they never hated him. Or maybe they just hated him with me.


He was attired in a black, opulent tuxedo. Mrs Jolie seemed to have enjoyed his grand entrance, while it, on the other hand, suffocating me. It was as if I couldn’t breathe. I ran towards the building again, flooding through the crowd. I just felt awkward being there. I ran to the restrooms and occupied one.

Okay...Alan’s here.

Fuck, Alan’s here.

Why are you even panicking? You feel embarrassed or something?

That’s the man you should be with

Does he still love you? Do you love him?

This is disrespectful though! How is your tantrum suppose to make Benjamin feel?

“I don’t fucking know, okay?” I responded furiously at my thoughts. I then realized I was going crazy. I went out of the restroom and looked at myself on the large, broken mirror in which Niall threw my head in.

When I looked at my reflection, it was as if I could see doubles and triples of myself, standing right behind me. I turned to look behind, and no one was in the room. I looked at the mirror again, and my reflections now had grins. They laughed at me, and only I could hear and see them, I assumed.

My nails began itching again, and it felt like a sinus. I couldn’t help but scratch. My nails sunk deep in the skin of my forearms again and like a drug, I just couldn’t stop going. The room suddenly turned dark, but I knew that was only in my head. The visions scared me. They weren’t much, but just blankness with only the pleasure of scratching my skin that mattered. Like a high.

The door to the restrooms opened, and my mind sank me back to reality. I was on the floor, my arms were bleeding...so were my nails. It was too late when I tried to cover up. It was Jeremiah with Benjamin behind him...again. “JESUS! ADRIAN!!” Jeremiah exploded as he rushed to me. Benjamin too.

“Adrian, are you okay?” Benjamin’s voice rushed.

“Why would you go back to this again? I thought you were getting better!” Jeremiah yelled softly. He hugged me, crouching.

“Again?” Benjamin sang with a disappointed tone. Benjamin and I locked eyes. I wanted to explain to him, but I failed.

“I’m sorry.” Was all I could say.

“C’mon...I have a black sweater you can wear. But promise you’ll call one of us, any time when you feel like hurting yourself again.”

I nodded. They helped me up and folded my sleeves. We rinsed the blood with water until I stopped bleeding. Benjamin laid his head on my shoulder from behind as I washed. I thought he would say something, judge me, but all he said was silence. It, the silence alone, sufficed.

I could feel him looking at my reflection in the broken mirror. “I love you so much, Adrian. I don’t ever want you to ever feel alone.”

“It was selfish of me, I know. I’ll get better, I promise.” I looked at Benjamin, who was now crying. Which made me cry. Yeah, I now felt terrible. Maybe that was why I tried so much to stay single...I knew someone who loved me would stop me from scratching and I didn’t want to. I also didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Jeremiah tenderly rinsed my hands and arms and I was clean. “Was it Alan?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. My thoughts started talking too loud for some reason when he arrived.”

“Your thoughts?” Benjamin echoed.

“Yeah. I usually do this when my thoughts start overpowering me...scratching erases them. It must be because I’ve learned, most especially after the incident with the letters, that I should never speak my mind. So I guess that’s how.”

“Do you want to get help?” Benjamin asked.

“I don’t think this matters more than saving more suicidal people in Clever Cats.”

He touched my face. “You matter too, Adrian.”

“Why are y’all touching so intimately? Are you two dating or something?” Jeremiah asked with a furrowed eyebrow.

Benjamin and I cringed, looking at him. “Yes?” Benjamin and I sang together.

He shook his head and sighed. “I like him for you.” Jeremiah smiled at me.

“You do?” Benjamin exclaimed.

“You’ve had a crush on Adrian longer than I had...and he does deserve an understanding guy like you. It’s not like you need approval from me to date each other, but I’m glad it’s you, man.” Jeremiah smiled at his friend. His face suddenly turned sour. “And if you dare hurt him...”

“I don’t have the bones nor the energy to hurt him, man. Thanks.” Benjamin nodded as he and Jeremiah bro-hugged.

I smiled a bit but still felt horrible. We went out of the restrooms and I walked lamely in between them. They spoke about sports, while I sank into a deep pit of thought. Not really thoughts, but just memories of Jeremiah Simone and I. The day he found out about my ‘psychiatric habit’ was the day he asked me to play an instrument for ‘Permanence’.


It was freshman year when he saw my nails wet with blood after I had cut myself. We were at my apartment, in my room. I was still alone in my room and was after a dream I had about blankness as well. It wasn’t the darkness that scared me, but the absence of every feeling, every sensation. I feared not feeling anything, and my dreams would torture me for that.

I was scratching, and sometimes I made pleasured moans that David and Cynthia couldn’t hear. It was that hypnotic.

“Dude, I...” Jeremiah walked in without knocking, which is what he always did. “ADRIAN!” He whisper-yelled as he closed the door.

“What are you doing here?” I replied lamely.

“I’m here to fucking see you, what the hell are you doing? Your nails are covered in blood.”

“I’m fine, Jeremiah.”

“Let me see your arms.” He nodded with his eyes on my arms.



My eyes widened. I was beyond petrified of fear. I sat there and froze instead. He folded my sleeves and saw the loud, fresh scratches and the dark marks that covered the skin of my arms. I looked at them too, and it was as if my dreams and thoughts were all inscribed on my forearms. Every cry for help tattooed on me.

I saw Jeremiah turning sick too. “We need to tell David about this!”

“They are partly the reason why I do this...just please...don’t!” I cried weakly.

“I won’t...but you need to tell me why.” He gawked at me, but his forehead showing concern.

“I can’t...because I also don’t know. It’s like every thought and dream that I want to share with my friend or anyone for that matter is scribbled on my arms. When I feel like no one’s listening, I just go to my arms.”

“I’ll listen, Adrian. I’m your friend.” He looked into my eyes and smiled.

“Even at 3 am in the morning?” I laughed through my blocked nostrils.

“Yeah...even at 3 am in the morning.” He held my hands. “I’m here for you. Just allow me.”

“I wish I could explain it to you.”

“You don’t have to. Just promise me you’ll get help on your own.”

I winced but nodded. That was a lie, he knew it too. “So, wassup?”

He sighed. He knew I didn’t want to talk about the topic any longer. “I wrote a song. I have the perfect melody for it. Acoustic guitar.”

“You love folk music more than I love music.” I smiled.

He snorted with a smirk. He grabbed my guitar and started playing with the D-string. The melody was a looped D and G-string, one that reminded me of what Iron & Wine would produce, one of the best Indie folk bands I’ve ever heard in the 21st century.

After he perfected the melody, he began humming beautifully. He opened his eyes before he forgot. “We need to clean you first.”

“There’s a first aid kit in the drawer of my dressing table.”

He walked towards it and retrieved the tiny bag. He sat down and unpacked the bag, taking everything he would need including bandages and antiseptics. When he was done, he gave me the stained cotton and I disposed it. I was too excited to hear what he had composed to be worried about myself.

He went back to his bag and took out his book, one he wrote his poetry and songs from. He knew how much I hated that scruffy book of his that always had tea stains and ink puke all over the pages. His writing was absolutely terrible! But he believed that was how an artist’s book should look like...intermittent and chaotic.

He hummed again as he paged through the book. He finally found the lyrics to the song. “I call it Permanence.”

“Nice.” I smiled as I repeated his melody on the guitar.

He frowned, setting emotion of the song.

"I tried to love myself

When I failed to love you

Don’t know if I can help

Be someone else for you

I tried to change my ways

I tried to leave my crew

But I can’t help the way I felt

The day I finally left you

I can’t change who I am

So go ahead and call me a fool

I don’t know if I can

Or if I ever want to

Cause this is Permanent

Yeah, it’s like a tattoo

This shit is Permanent

It’s stuck to me like glue.”

I saw the passion in the bend and twist of his face as he sang beautifully against the strum of guitar strings with a purposely rusty voice. He sounded like a ready rockstar, a popular lead singer of some high school garage band. But the lyrics articulated intimacy on their own, expressed the feeling of confinement in the most excruciating way, yet in a sexy, unapologetic way. I had to admit...lyrically, the song wasn’t so smart but...for a starter like him, it wasn’t so bad and either way...message delivered and read!

He grinned as I ended the song with the last strum. He jumped on me in excitement. He always wrestled when he suddenly got too elated...what kind of joy is that? Violent joy? Sadistic?

I began wrestling him and him knowing that he had power over me, he let me think I was winning. He laughed as I tried to dominate, but failed.

“Now tell me that wasn’t good?” He said as he pinned my arms on the bed, with his face so close to mine.

“How is wrestling even relevant to the song?” I laughed beneath him.

He didn’t answer, but let himself catch his breath above me. His golden eyes were looking directly at me. His face frowned, so did mine. Jeremiah’s boner grew bigger and bigger, but so did mine. They were directly contacted with each other through our summer tight jeans.

He reacted after a while, as he recoiled from me. His one hand tried to fix his boner while to me, I just didn’t understand why was he freaking out when physical contact could also cause an erection. “You’re okay?” I sat up.

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“No worries. Boners happen anytime, anywhere...right?” I laughed.

“Yeah.” He snorted.

I held his shoulder. “The song is perfect!”


We managed to catch up with the crowd, which was already on its way to the cemetery. Benjamin boldly held my hand as we joined the crowd. Jeremiah gave me a stare, which wasn’t so polite. Everyone was talking, everyone was happy and jovial as if this wasn’t a sad march to the cemetery.

But I had thought about Mia and how I wished to help her but didn’t know if I actually could. I understood why she hid her relationship with Niall from me. At first, it felt like a betrayal, however as time went, I remembered how much of a bully Niall was and I had to help her and everyone who had been bullied by him, myself included.

“Where have you been?” Gabriel, out of nowhere, appeared.

“I had to go to the bathroom first. Benjamin too.” I replied with my head down.

He sighed. “I think this is all redundant. Honouring the five ‘victims’ and...”

“Fuck, can we not talk about this?” I spoke softly and wearily.

Gabriel shrugged. “Fine. But are you sure you’re okay? Seeing Alan again...”

I frowned. “Yes, I’m okay.”

Benjamin gave me a look that even I couldn’t translate. It was too blank, but it said something.

“Just try to be strong until this is over, okay?” Gabriel whispered.

I nodded. Ms Jolie wasn’t in the crowd, the rest of the staff as well, it was just us students looking like imbeciles as we marched through the town. I, on the other hand, was conflicted whether I should be feeling guilty or gratified. I felt neither. Only because I still saw Niall alive and well. He wasn’t fazed at all by his buddies dying. He was jolly, laughing with his clique and mingling with everyone as if everything was fine.

“I’m scared.” Benjamin erupted, breaking the silence.

“Of what?” I looked at him.

“I’ve never held anyone like this so publicly. Makes me feel like I’m owning myself and living for once, however...I feel secluded. Jeremiah, Gabriel too, couldn’t admit to themselves that they think us dating may be a...cinge-worthy act.”

“Do you think it is?” I whispered.

“No, but...it feels different. I think different is good. I’m trying to acclimatize to the whole ‘gay thing’.”

I laughed. “So what? You think since you’re gay you’ll start wearing shorts, mascara and start Naomi Campbell-ing?”

He looked at me, terrified. “Well...don’t you feel like doing so?”

I shook my head with a smile. “No, not at all. I’ve never had a flamboyant personality, so it still feels fine to be my awkward self dressed in oversized sweaters and stuff. Do you feel like wearing dresses and cross-dressing?” I made my tone sarcastic.

He sighed. “No. I just don’t know what being gay feels like, you know? It’s still conflicting...as if there’s more to this.”

“You’ve just found your sense of individuality. Of course, it feels awkward, however, you get used to it eventually. People start not caring about your sexual orientation and it doesn’t become such a big deal to you too. It becomes spectacular, however, if you become someone you’re not. I chose to stay lame...that’s still working out fine for me.” I smiled as I held his hand firmly.

His breath patterns stuttered, even his hand was trembling in mine. “I’m sorry if I’m transpiring all my anxieties to you.”

“Hey...” I smiled at him, leaning on his shoulder. “That’s what I’m here for.”

“I think that’s all that matters, for now, I guess. I love you.”

I looked at him. “I love you too, Benjamin. Always.”

He kissed the back of my hand. We arrived and assembled again at the cemetery, surrounding the open graves with six caskets on them. The image built anxiety in my veins and a very nauseating feeling. Benjamin was very close to Daniel, the recipient. My friend/crush. But I couldn’t stand to see his casket being talked upon and eventually lowered down and forgotten like screen credits in a movie.

It hurt being there. I felt it. I felt something leaving, someone who I didn’t expect to lose so soon. I wondered what was going on in his head, how he, Daniel, felt and how the letter made him feel. Did it make him feel guilty? Exposed? Suicidal? Did he feel the same way? Did he eventually come out?

So I have seated aside as the pastor spoke above their graves. Ms Jolie and the staff were already at the cemetery too. Benjamin, Gabriel or Jeremiah would check up on me every now and then to see if I was okay, judging from the fact that I was the only one sitting aside on a bench, absent and miles away from the ceremony.

The dream about me shooting everyone with a rifle replayed in my head like a trance, the blood spilling everywhere, the white, long, feet-covering, blood-stained garment I wore, the sadistic grin I had as I shot everyone dead and the gratification I felt afterwards looking above Niall’s deadhead, seeing him that defenceless.

“Are you okay?” Mrs Ravenss sat next to me. “You’re the only one who decided to seclude himself.”

“Well, I’m not the only one anymore.”

She sighed. “You know, the students are thinking of starting anti-suicide campaigns and educative chat sessions at Clever Cats that will help the LGBT community and other students battling anxiety and depression to help educate...”

“Mrs Ravens, I’m not some sort of hero! I couldn’t stop Daniel, I couldn’t stop the bullying and rape before it became something as monumental as this. Will there be campaigns to educate staff on how to be there for students too?” I exclaimed.

She scoffed with a smile. “We need that too but...believe me or not, I’m not the bad guy here. I’m actually the only one in this school that cares deeply about students.”

“Why?” I looked at her. “It’s easy to just not give a fuck about people, why do you come to work every day only to help fucked up students?”

“Because I once battled with anxiety and depression.” She grimaced as if she just remembered a gruesome memory. “Adrian, I know how confinement feels like. I grew up in a religious family where everything was done with perfection. I had to be modest and calm because I am a woman. I had to feed the man, massage his back when he comes back from work, have sex with him...and for five years I was married to that.

I wanted to leave, but he paid for my parent’s old-age home. It was hard to find a job because I was simply a woman. When that finally got to me one day, I began cutting...” She folded her sleeves and screams of healed scars displayed on her forearms like a museum. They, somehow, looked beautiful yet tragic. “My husband divorced me later on. I had to get a job, go back to school and when I saw how pathetic we were as students, I decided I would help more students from falling into the deep hole I fell in...depression.

I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The fear of the unknown that never leaves you, even in your dreams, the fear of death, the fear of loss and separation. The sleepless nights of crying for absolutely no reason, the deep sadness...I didn’t imagine anyone would go through such a thing! But you know what kept me going?” She smirked.

I shook my head. I was crying, but oblivious to the tears. The cemetery was the perfect place to cry anyway. “No,” I replied.

“Love. Mom and Dad loved me so much, they wanted to see me do better. They wanted to see me flourish as a woman and as an individual. Adrian, I may not know what you’ve been through, but you have to find happiness wherever you are. And not everyone loves you. Some are jealous, some envious, but finding love gives you greater peace more than you can ever imagine. Even if it’s a single person that loves you...” She looked at the crowd, I traced her eyes to see that she was looking at Benjamin.

I looked at her and smiled, blushed actually.

“And he loved you too...Daniel.” She took out an envelope and gave it to me. “He asked me to give it to you days before he killed himself. He said he had to leave, although it didn’t make sense until now. He said you were a good person to him...and a good friend.” She stood up and walked back to the crowd.

I looked at the envelope and ripped it open. My hands trembled. It read...

"Dear Adrian

You remember when we went to Lake Mouth and for the first time, you got into the water with me because I told you to fight your fears? I realized I was a coward and I could lie to anyone else about prowess but you. But that day was the only time in my life I felt complete. I didn’t know you still needed me, you have Jeremiah Simone and Gabriel who will protect you, friends that love you despite their imperfections and I loved you too. I loved you the minute you trusted me in the water, that I would keep you afloat.

I won’t be back, not anytime soon. Help others, too, to feel complete. Guess I’ll see you on the other side, or haunt you like a ghost or something."

I laughed in tears at the last part. I put the note aside and wept. I felt a hand on my back caressing me. I looked up and it was Benjamin, crying too. “You’re okay?” He whispered.

I looked at him with a smile. “I’m okay.” I touched his face, admiring it deeply. “You know, you don’t always have to cry when I do.”

“When you cry, it automatically hurts me too.” Benjamin used his thumb to wipe my tears.

I sighed, knowing the feeling. “I love you, Benjamin.”

He instantly hugged me. “I love you.”

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