Speak & Listen

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At least I had something to look forward to on my junior year: Ben and Gabriel, my two bullies had left for college. The worst part of it is thinking of how not to crush on someone else this year. That part was beyond my control.

I lived with my mom, who was always in and out of the house. She worked in a bakery and we lived in a mid-class residential area with only dogs as neighbourhood friends. Sophia, my only friend, lived outside of town.

I own a Polo classic since last year. It was a gift for my sixteenth birthday from dad, who never visits unless necessary. He got remarried and moved out of the city. My mother had been single ever since.

It was the first day of school. Usually, I drove with a little bit of Feist’s rock tunes in the background, usually. I thought rock tunes made me feel cool, although I knew that was far from true. But that day, I played the sad strums of Elena Tonra as I drove to school in an abnormally slow speed. I parked at the lot when I arrived and Sophia was already outside waiting for me. She has gotten much ‘fatter’ during the winter year-end vacation, just didn’t notice that it was this hazardous. Yes, I was body-shaming my own friend.

“Bestie!” She screamed as I closed the car door, locking the car afterwards.

She attacked me with a hug. The Sophia I knew always had a pretzel every morning.

“Hey.” I smiled at her, although I felt like warning her about the damage the pretzel might have on her...never mind.

One of the best things about Sophia...she’s stubborn. A feminist, yet terrible at practising it. She didn’t deserve judgement for the kind of person she was: feminine, curious yet weak in the hands of men and unwise on the institution of romance. She was stubborn for all the right reasons, which was beneficial the day I came out.

Sophia had been babbling ever since the parking lot. “...And then there’s Ryan...oh my word, he’s super cute. And guess what?”

I wanted to hear less of her fake valley-girl accent. However, it was good for once not to receive unsolicited pressure from my friend. She would always remind me of my celibacy and how it would ‘leave me lonely one day’. I believed her.

“What?” I responded sombrely.

“He liked my photo on Insta. The one I was sweaty in? Hunting trip with Carmichael? ...Oh my god, he left a comment...look!”

I pretended to look at the comment section below the picture, but honestly I just wanted silence for my first day as a junior.

“Yay?” My eyebrow furrowed.

“Yay! C’mon, I have to ask for his number after English class.”

I stood and looked at her as she hopped off, barely noticing that I wasn’t walking with her anymore. Her bravery sometimes crept me out. And yes, I did believe she would go up to Ryan Hunter and ask for his number.

School was never my best-loved thing, although I was frequently the first to arrive and happen to be one of the most academic excelling students in the entire school. But I wasn’t known for being smart. I was known for anything but that.

So I couldn’t keep track of time when I was in school. It all felt like blurs of memories passing by.

“And why don’t you pick someone from school? I mean there are plenty of fish in the sea?” She looked at me as I drove out of the lot. It was afterschool already. My feet were killing me.

“Mine are limited, or probably not there yet.” I spoke through my teeth, feeling a bit embarrassed. She knew I despised the topic.

“Honey, you know what I say...you make your own fish.” We sang the last part together.

I was starting to feel sad again. Partly, I was beginning to assume it didn’t apply to us people. We can meet an evil, selfish gay man and on the other hand fall in love for a kind, selfless straight man who has no romantic intentions towards men whatsoever. That was one of the worst parts about us. How we have to judge from flamboyance and feminine character to determine whether a man is straight or Queer.

At least her favourite song interrupted the cliff-hanging topic in the atmosphere. We sang it together; she knew how much I hated it. I hated contemporary pop. Popular music is all a transpiration of poor musicianship and lack of what I thought was the ‘soul of sound’.

I dropped her off at the bus station. She quickly jumped off and looked back at me. “See ya, bestie. And don’t forget I’m having a sleepover at your house this weekend.”


She waved as I drove off. It was a long drive home, but a therapeutic one. One that was filled with rumination and reflection.

Did I tell you I am a victim of Generalized Anxiety Disorder? No? Well...there you go!

Everything fell apart afterwards, I would find every reason to panic, as if just like dad, everyone would suddenly disappear on me or I would feel capable of killing someone. Yes, murder! I didn’t even need reason, most of the time, to panic. My mind would just decide to gang up on me and I would get furious or blatantly afraid...as if if I could jump out of my body, I would.


I got out of the toilet after Cain, on of my schoolmates and supposedly recipient slapped me in the restrooms. Why? Well it was exactly the day I came out, after the humiliation, I had run to the restrooms. More on the reason later.

I had left the restrooms afterwards feeling a large amount of angst.

“Hypocrites!” Sophia yelled at the entire school. Everyone was looking at her in the corridors, listening to her speak boldly. “You’re all hypocrites! Acting as if you didn’t know he was gay all along. And you, Alan! Why are you standing here knowing that Adrian isn’t taking this criticism well?” She roared at Alan.

That was exactly how I felt, just without words. All I could do was cry. Alan, afterwards, looked at me. Following Alan’s eyes, every eye looked at me. My friends...looking at me now not with disgust, but pity. “I didn’t think I’d have to explain myself to a bunch of homophobes in the 21st century but...” Alan walked towards me and held my hand.

I looked at him, nervous. “You don’t have to do this, Alan.” I whispered.

“Adrian Spector is my boyfriend! You fuck with him, you fuck with me! You should be ashamed of yourselves. Adrian...you see these people?” He yelled, but addressed the question to me.

I looked around. Jeremiah’s eyes locked with mine. He was crying? Gabriel had a smirk. Chris and Brandon were in utter shock. Mia had a smile as wide as Sophia’s. Ben’s face was resistent, like he was trying to understand but his hatred for homosexuals wouldn’t let him. Craig had a blank face, one I couldn’t read. William was confused, but blatantly repulsed. Mason too, but with eyes of dread than disgust. Sebastian pushed his long hair backwards leaning towards his locker with Elijah next to him who was already out of the closet. Daniel had a smile too.

“They will accept you, us, as who we are and whoever amongst them who called your friend will show that. Or else, fuck them!” He yelled to the school again.

Mrs. Ravens behind the crowd smiled. I looked at Alan and held his hand firmly with a smile as well. He looked at me. “Told you nothing will happen to you.” He whispered and winked.


My mind sank back into reality. The bliss gone, roses withered. A ruined fantasy. It felt like an ancient memory, yet it wasn’t so long when things began and ended at the very same scene in my life.

A silhouette stood in the roadway. My senses were evoked, my energy stimulated. The car made a loud screech as the tires held for dear life onto the tar beneath. As the car approached closer, I saw that it was a little girl with widened eyes. The car halted.

At first I was furious about the fact that the girl didn’t look out for any cars approaching. Until I realized that it was a zebra-crossing hump and the poor kid had every right to walk at any pace she wanted.

I got out of the car. She seemed okay, very beautiful with rosy cheeks. She fidgeted a bit. Her eyes looked familiar. She had long untied hair attired in a knee-lengthed dress. She looked like she was coming from the Crane Hills Park. They had to put the hump because kids played at the play-park nearby.

I emerged from the car in speed. “Hey sweetie, I’m so sorry for ...”

“No it’s okay. I was the one who didn’t look before crossing.” She smiled graciously.

“You had every right to walk whenever on a zebra-crossing hump. Are you okay?” I sighed, seeing that she wasn’t hurt nor infuriated.

“Yes sir, thank you.” She convinced with a smile.

I sighed again, now with a smile. “I’m Adrian. What’s your name?”


I smiled. “Well that’s a very beaut ...”

“KELLY!!! Do you want your ass stolen? Get the fuck inside, you hear?” A woman in her mid-60s, I assumed, yelled at the poor girl. The woman was attired in an oversized grey vest that showed her tired breasts and a large belly peeping below the end. Her hair was wet and short, as if it was constantly pulled out or cut randomly. She had a very distinct Latin accent.

I looked at Kelly again. “You have to go. It was nice meeting you Kelly.”

She nodded, now with a frown and ran off. I got inside the car and drove off.


Days passed. Sophia and Ryan Hunter had been dating ever since the Instagram saga.

Sophia was really sensitive when it came to dating. Fragile if I may say. I honestly didn’t like Ryan Hunter, although I barely knew him. He was a jock, enough reason to hate him. Sophia wasn’t, at all, wise when it came to this part of her life. I know this. I’ve seen her through it.

They, Sophia and Ryan Hunter, went on a date on Friday, and promised she’d come to my apartment afterwards for our slumber party.

“Hey mom” I whispered. I wasn’t quite sure if she was in the mood. I stirred some of the pots that were starting to burn.

“Hey, dinner ready yet?” She smiled a bit.

“Not yet. Give me thirty minutes.”


She attempted going upstairs


She took several steps back “Yes?”

“Sophia is coming over for the weekend...do you mind?”

“As long as the noise levels will be on minimal.”


“Good. Now check on your pots, I think the spaghetti is burning.” She grimaced.

I sprang to check on the pots, only to remember that I just did. “Very funny, mom” My eyes rolled.

She smiled as she went upstairs. She and I were never close. I was closest with my dad, who knew and accepted my sexual orientation. It took mom a while to at least tolerate me. More to this later.

I kept on checking the pots as I watched The Muppets on television. When I was about to dish up, a Jeep stopped beside our house. First Ryan Hunter, the school’s not-so-popular jock sprang out of the car and Sophia followed. I watched all this behind the closed kitchen curtain. They kissed and departed. She walked to the house as I pretended to have been watching television all along.

A knock came from the door.

“Come in, Sophia.”

Her loud heels clacked on the wooden floor. She, for the first time, was wearing a dress.

“No you’re not.” I giggled. “You are not wearing a dress, I must be hallucinating.”

"Ha-ha, really funny. I hated every single part of that date.”

“Uh-oh...tell me all about it.”

“I’d rather not. It was mostly about him clearly not being over his ex. He mentioned her six times.”

“He did not...” My eyes dramatically widened. It wasn’t the ‘ex’ part that seemed eerie. Sophia listened and kept tabs at how many times he mentioned his ex?

“He did. And we broke up.”

“But I saw you guys kissing before you departed.” My eyes rolled afterwards, knowing what she would say about that.

“What the ...you are such a stalker, Adrian!”

I laughed at her face. Truly it had me going.

She sighed. “Well it was a goodbye kiss. I told him we’re better off apart.”

I saw her eyes glowing. She had, for the first time, tears in her eyes. Was this date thing really serious? She really loved Ryan Hunter?

My eyes widened. “Whoa! Are you okay?”

“I just need pizza and ice cream.” Her voice wobbled.

“I have chocolate ice-cream in the freezer. We can order pizza.”


Her yay sounded less enthusiastic this time. She ordered pizza while I dished up dinner. Mom preferred eating in her room, which I totally didn’t mind. The silence on the dining table with only the two of us in the house became too loud for either of us anyway.

After dinner, we both changed into our pyjamas and watched a sad romantic film. You know, a stereotypical girls-night-in.

I knew that as tough as Sophia can be, she was handling this way worse than I imagined. It was only for a week, less than a week. Something didn’t add up. Sophia had too much of a backbone to be crying over just one boy.

I hated seeing her like this, especially on our sleepovers.



“You’ve never cried for a boy before, particularly a boy you have dated for less than a week. What did Ryan do?”

She looked at me. Her eyes wetted even more. Now I knew that it wasn’t just about Ryan Hunter.

“I don’t know where to start, Adrian. I’m afraid you might see me in a different way.”

I widened my eyes. I started tearing too. I saw the sorrow in her eyes, strangling her. Her ego held it back.“Sophia, you can’t be strong for me and you all the time. You need to tell me what’s wrong so I’ll be able to help you.”

She sniffed, refusing to cry “...I know I’m fat, but it hurts more when people tell me. I met Matthew today. He was in the same café as we were. He called me fat...clumsy...in front of Ryan. He said I smell. I mean, I totally get it, why can’t I...” She trailed off.

Matthew was Sophia’s ex. One of the most unhygienic men I’ve ever come across, but they worked well together. They were both happy and despite the smell of dead cat and rotten paste, I was beginning to like him too. Until he cheated, like any other man, on Sophia for a much less obese woman. It took her a year to recover.

I felt guilty for the slight judgement I had this week about her mass. I wanted to say something genuine, but I couldn’t. She was really broken. I may have not understood obesity, but I do know that people are fighting with it every day and it has become a brain illness in society, so I didn’t think she was being a baby or a child.

I believed she was human.

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