Excerpt 1 from an unpublished, untitled book.
I AM AT MY ABSOLUTE LOWEST AND SOMEHOW, I AM FREE. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. The truth was going to come out sooner or later. Honestly, I was banking for later- like way, way later- but he took that away from me. Like a robber in the night, he broke through my home and stole my secret. And what he did next sent my whole world crashing. But hey, I guess that’s blackmail for you.
When I heard what he did, I had no plan on what to do or what to say. The only thing certain was that my secret was out there.
And I wanted it back.
I heard it during my senior year of high school from my best friend and her mother. The two people that know pretty much everything about me. Well… almost everything. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her. She’s a smart girl. And maybe I’m a complete idiot for not trusting her with my secret. I guess I wasn’t ready for her to know. I wasn’t ready for anyone to know.
I get a phone call asking me to go outside. I pull down my curtain and see her and her mother pulled up across the street from my house. I go out, walk towards the door of the car and she rolls down her window.
“I don’t know if you know this, but he’s going around telling people and he’s got photos.” My heart drops and sizzles on the hot paved road. “I’m getting texts asking me if it’s true. Danni, Javi, some kids from our class and school- they know.” My eyes widen and freeze in place. How could this happen? Who knows? Questions began to crash like icebergs and I was on the Titanic ready to jump ship.
“I didn’t say anything. It’s not my space. Listen, I don’t care. It’s not a big deal.”
Oh, but it was. She may not know it and I may not have known it at the time, but this secret was a bigger deal than I thought. This wasn’t a small secret that I could easily fix. Like the time my brother saw my search history and I blamed it on a friend that was over. This was a secret that would soon send me down a path of uncertainty and there was no way to delete it.
His name was Alex. He was an enthusiastic kid. A bit over the stocky side and tan with a “feminine” quality to him. He would walk with a sway in his hips and would flail his hands while talking. As if he were trying to swat a fly. He exuded a lot of energy with a punch of sass. Well actually, make that multiple punches. This kid made Neil Patrick Harris look more butch than Al Pacino compared to him. It was clear to me, and clear to everyone else, that he was different. Different from the rest of the guys, and that made him stand out. And in our school, we teased kids like him. Maybe that’s why you did it, Alex… So you didn’t feel so alone.
We met in track and he became close to my best friend. We exchanged numbers and started to talk. It was late one night, and we chatted. Now if there is one thing I have learned in my years of adolescence, it’s that nothing ever good happens when you get a text after 10:00 pm on a school night. And nothing good will follow when you send pics and videos with your face in it. You probably know what I am getting at here. If you don’t, you probably never have been a hormone-crazed teenager.
I shouldn’t have trusted him. But this was the first time I got any attention in that way. And it felt good. Great actually. But I was selfish. If I had known our conversations would be broadcasted at school, I would have thought a lot harder and save myself from all this trouble. But I was a dumbass. And maybe I deserved it. I got what I needed from him, but I neglected to see what he wanted. I screwed with his mind and played with his heart. I guess we are both to blame for what was to come.
She stares at me with a worried look in her eye. I begin to panic as my chest begins to weigh heavy and my hands begin to tremble.
“I have family that goes here! My brother! What if they find out! I’m not ready!” And that’s the truth. I wasn’t ready. Whoever is really? Everyone that I’ve asked says it never goes as planned. And I’ve come to agree with that. I never planned on any of this. The plan was to get a dream job. Find a gal. Have a kid. Move on from the shame and guilt. But of course, this story wouldn’t be told if that was the case.
I called Alex and insisted we meet. My best friend’s mother, Mama, asked to go with me in support. He agreed, and we waited for the end of the week to confront him. It was the longest week of my life. It beat me up wondering who knew. I would look myself in the mirror thinking, “What am I? Is there something wrong with me?” I felt alone. I felt lost. I was at my lowest and things began to get darker. And I began to think to myself, maybe I’m better off in the dark.
We arrived at Alex’s door and he greeted me with a smile and hug, as if he did not know the severity of the situation he has caused. We walked into his living room. There was an old shaggy rug placed in the middle of the room, with a dusty coffee table and couch to accompany it. The blinds were slightly drawn, letting some light in as dust flickered in the spotlights. I looked around and felt tense. Like I’ve just entered my killer’s lair.
He pulled up an old rusty chair, like the one you’d find in a drive-thru restaurant and offered me a seat. I sat down, and silence immediately filled the room.
My eyes began to burn holes through his living room carpet as I avoided his gaze. My emotions were built up but the words were trapped, struggling to come out. And every time I tried….nada.
Time passed, until Mama broke the silence. “Why’d you do it?” Alex began to get nervous while small beads of sweat formed on the wrinkles of his forehead.
His eyes dart at me as mine begin to well up with tears.
“Do what,” he replied with a nervous chuckle. Mama exchanged looks between the two of us as she took a seat on the couch.
“Did you not think what this could do to Jason?” Silence.
“He wasn’t ready.” More silence filled the room until Mama said something that caught us both off guard.
“Did you know he thought of killing himself?” His jolly cheeks and wrinkles immediately slumped downward.
Mama wasn’t exaggerating. It was true. I thought I was better off ending my own life than dealing with this secret. And it’s such a horrible and shitty thing that secrets have that much power over us.
Alex’s silence got louder. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
“Cut the bullshit,” I scream. The three of us pause. My eyes pierce through Alex as I shake in fear and anger.
“I wasn’t ready, Alex.”
“Maybe you did it because you liked me. Maybe you did it because I just saw you as a fuck.” My hands were clenched and the breath between words began to fall short.
“You fucked me, then you fucked me!” My body began to shake. Mama reached over and grabbed my hand, trying her best to hold back her tears and calm my nerves. Silence filled the room once more.
“. . . Maybe I should kill myself.”
“Why not? It would save me all this trouble.”
“I never meant for it to go this far. I just wanted to hurt you like you hurt me.”
“Hmph.. Well congratulations… You broke me.” I felt like I shattered into a million pieces and no one was there to put me back together.
Once the adrenaline settled, I decided to take control over the situation. I insisted Alex to give me his phone to make sure all the evidence was deleted. I searched around the house to make sure no one else was there listening. I felt like an FBI agent raiding a home. Pacing throughout the house, scrambling through Alex’s phone. Going through his gallery. Looking at his texts. I didn’t want my secret being shared any more than it has been already. But like I said, sometimes we don’t have power over the secrets we choose to keep.
I looked at Mama and gave her a nod.
“It’s time to go, Jason. We’re done here.” I gathered myself and we headed towards the door. I passed and looked back at Alex, standing across from me with his eyes looking down and arms crossed against his chest.
“Fuck you. I hope you’re happy.” Those were the last words I said to Alex. He tried reaching me from time to time after that day, but I just wanted to move on. So I did. Or, at least I tried.
There is only one good thing that came from Alex. When I look myself in the mirror, the doubt is no longer there. The questions stopped rattling between my ears. This was the first time I looked at myself and saw a glimpse of who I really was. My eyes welded up, I was scared, and for the first time ever- I said it aloud.
“I’m gay.” Two words that sent shivers down my spine and my legs to give. I gripped the sink tightly as my shoulders drooped down, crying. Feeling alone once again…
I did not know what it meant or what to do from here. I got my secret back. But secrets follow you.
Now to figure out what the fuck I’m gonna do.