Tonight I was beyond tempted, more than ever before. This was no longer an empty threat, no longer an idea in the dark recesses of my mind...this empty feeling inside of me had taken over, and my thoughts of suicide were now a reality. It was about 3 AM, and even though Navy Pier was closed at midnight, getting out there was no problem at that time of morning. It was so quiet, so peaceful. I believe that 3 AM is the darkest time of night by far, the perfect balancing point between sunset and sunrise. Not too many people roaming the streets, not too many cars passing by, just uninterrupted silence. The ultimate perfection in the darkness of night. I had walked along this dock many times before at night, letting the icy cold waves of Lake Michigan call out to me. Asking me to finally have the guts to jump in. To finally throw myself over the edge an let the dark hypnotic waves embrace me, drowning out my sorrows for the last time. I walked in silence, tears rolling down my cheeks non stop. But I wasn't crying, The tears were there, but the emotion was all but gone. The very act of crying was a waste to me at this point, because all the tears my body could ever produce could in no way justify the life that I've lived, or the things I've been asked to endure. Death was my only escape. At 14 years old there wasn't much else I could do. I couldn't move away, I couldn't start my life over again someplace else, I couldn't plead my case to anyone without them treating me like just a kid...the whole uphill battle would be in vain. I was four years from even having a minimal say in what society sees as 'right and wrong'. I had nothing left for them to take except for my life...and I refused to let them have it. I'd rather die by my own actions, on my own terms, and at my own time. It was the only bit of control I had left.
'Justin's just a dork' they all said. 'Justin's just a kid, what he says doesn't matter.' they said. The kids in school teased me, I didn't have a friend in the world. I used to be labeled as a pretty boy. The blue eyed, sandy blond show off who was too wrapped up in his looks to care about anybody else. Which was totally untrue, but I suppose they needed to have SOME reason to hate me. That was one of them. By the time I got to the 7th or 8th grade, they stopped labelling me at all. The hatred had just refined itself somehow, and became more general, they didn't even need a reason anymore. No parties, no after school hang outs, nothing. Actually, I did have one friend, one close friend who I loved dearly. His name was Richie, he was my age, and one of the sweetest most adorable people to ever walk this Earth. But like me, our beloved Lord and Savior decided to deal him a bad hand in life. He was stuck in a hospital, struggling with terminal cancer. Since he was first admitted, I've watched him change and deteriorate into something else. He was skinny, weak, sickly...he had lost his hair, and his once beautiful tan had become pale and faded. But no matter what happened, his eyes always kept their shine. He was always happy to see me visit, and he always had a warm smile waiting for me, no matter how bad he felt. I held back every possible tear when I went to see him, feeling helpless and alone. But I greeted him with the same smile he gave me, I was strong for him, and he was strong for me. But I knew one day it would be over. No more hospital visits, no more long hugs, no more long matches of video games on his room's TV set. Soon he'd be gone. This beautiful person would be gone forever, and he'd be leaving all the perverts, deviots, killers, rapists, thieves and every other kind of low life scum ever to inhabit the Earth behind. Why would heaven choose to take such a beautiful angel away from us, when there are so few left in this world? Richie was my best friend, but he wouldn't be around forever, and the way I felt that night...I envied him.
My father was an abusive son of a bitch. Whatever words he couldn't use to hurt me with, he made up for with his fists. My parents finally divorced, putting a stop to the beatings once and for all, but at what price. My mother and I didn't have enough money to support ourselves, and I was so tired of going to bed hungry. We had enough to put a roof over our heads, and maybe pay the bills every two months or so, that was it. My mother always seemed to have enough left over money from her paycheck to buy alcohol though. Funny how that worked out every week. How many times was I going to have to put her to bed? How many times was I going to have to clean up the mess she made in the bathroom after drinking too much and passing out? How many times did I have to call her into work sick, or cover her up on the couch, or listen to her cry about how poor and unfortunate we were? I just couldn't handle it anymore.
I had nowhere to turn to, no one to lean on, and as if my life hadn't been bad enough, I recently had to come to terms with another unfortunate turn in my life. It happened when I was ten, playing in the park with some friends, tackle football. That's when a few other kids about a year or so older joined us. That's when I saw him. This boy, this 12 year old boy, with light brown medium length hair and ice blue eyes. He was so slim, his hips were almost serpentine, and when he took off his shirt to play, I practically fell in love with him on the spot. I had no idea why I was feeling the way I felt, but I knew it was wrong. Boys don't like boys, that's just the rules of the game. But as we kept on playing, his smooth preteen body rubbing up against mine, his warm breath in my face, his long legs wrapped around me when he tackled me...I knew I couldn't hold this back any longer. Every time he touched me, his velvety smooth skin making a sensual contact with mine, my erection flared with growing intensity. At one point they all decided to have a pile on, and I was actually on top of him. There was so much confusion that he probably didn't even notice that I had done it, but while everyone was laughing and screaming and tusseling about...I bent down and started kissing his chest. Delicately, secretively, I enjoyed myself. But when the pile on was over, and the heap started to settle, I had to get off of him, and I knew that this was as far as I was ever going to get with another boy. I felt hurt, sad, rejected, almost sick. I left the field shortly after that, and I stayed home alone, crying. I just didn't understand why. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Was I cursed to live this way forever? This would turn out to be a very lonely life indeed, a secret one that would boil inside of me until the day I died. This day.
I continued to walk out to the very end of the dock, nothing but the sound of the waves licking the sides of the platform, and I peered over the side into the darkness. I thought about Richie, about my dad, my mom and her drinking, my nonexistent social life, my hidden feelings for other boys, and just the world in general. How could anybody stand it? How can anybody bare to live in a world full of so much hatred and pain. There was no love here, only torture. Love is merely a postponing of the pain to follow it. It's an illusion, a fairy tale that we tell our kids to give them false hope, to teach them how to ACT as though it is real. I'm sure it was out there somewhere, but how many people actually find the real thing? Four? Maybe five in a year? I wasn't about to fool myself into thinking I was that lucky. It was time for me to take myself out of the equation, and have some peace at last.
I stared at the water, the rippling waves as they churned back and forth in front of me. I was magnetized to it, and I wanted so badly to jump in, but something was anchoring me to the dock. A fear of the unknown I suppose, of what would happen...after. Was there even an 'after'? The last time I got this close, an officer stopped me, asking me what I was doing out there. Saved by a stranger I guess. This time, my guardian angel must have been sleeping. I continued to concentrate on the water, and the darkness, and just as I was ready to throw one leg over the railing, I heard a voice come from the darkness behind me.
"So are you going to do it, or what?" It said. It was a young voice, a hazy teenage voice, he sounded about my age. I looked around to see who it was, but the sound was coming from behind the giant black anchor on the end of the dock. I moved around it a little to see who it was, and caught a glimpse of a young figure hidden in shadow.
"What did you say?" I asked, trying to get a better look.
"Are you going to do it, or aren't you? I figured from the way you were staring at the lake like that, you were either going to jump in, or part it like the Red Sea. Either way, I'd get to see quite a show." He said. His voice was so calm, so eerily peaceful. There was something so intriguing about it, and I moved a few steps closer. Then he turned his head to look at me, and it must have been my imagination, but I could have sworn I saw his eyes flash at me. Bright flashes of gold, like cat eyes in the dark, but when I took a few scared steps back from the sight of it, the glowing orbs dimmed and then faded away. "Did I scare you?" He asked.
"No, not at all." I lied. "What are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be at home or something?" I asked, trying to get my privacy back.
"Shouldn't YOU? I was here first. In fact, I've been coming here for a very long time. I've been watching you take the long walk up and down this dock for months now. But it looked like you were really going to jump this time. I wanted front row seats."
How could someone be so inconsiderate? He actually came to WATCH??? How sick is THAT? For this strange kid to actually have the nerve to say that to me was beyond belief. These are the kind of assholes I hope to leave behind when I'm gone. I was still going to do it, but I started to wonder if I should kick his ass first.
"Wondering if you should kick my ass first, huh?" He said. "Might not be such a good idea. I can be pretty tough when I want to be." He flashed me a sly grin that I could see, even in the dark. Then he stood up and walked closer to me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but when he finally stepped out from under the anchor's shadow, his beautiful face came into view. His skin was flawless, beyond comprehension. His hair hung down to his cheekbones on both sides, a beautiful reddish brown color that shined with reflections of moonlight. His eyes were a blazing color of green, deep green, like I had never seen before. Not on a boy or a girl or even an animal. It almost looked artificial. His lips were a deep red, and they were smooth and tight, hiding perfectly white teeth that almost looked like baby teeth. They just had that pure, untouched, just-came-back-from-the-dentist look. He was sleek and trim, I could probably fit my hands around his waist and let my fingers touch if he sucked in his stomach a little. He was about my height, and he had the cutest little mole on his cheek, almost up by his right eye. I was a bit put off by the fact that such a hot kid would be walking around Navy Pier in the middle of the night. But something about him really interested me, so I kept him talking.
"If you've been watching me all this time...then why didn't you say something before?" I asked.
"You looked as though you didn't want to hear it. Maybe now you do. What's your name?"
"It's Brian." I said.
He looked me right in the eye and said a second later, "No it isn't. So I'll ask again....What's your name?"
How did he do that? It was almost like he could tell exactly what was on my mind. I've never experienced anything like it. Just being there with him in the dark, talking, having him examine me with his dazzling green eyes, was spooky, and yet so inviting. Something about this kid seemed unnaturally pure, crafty and wise at the same time. "It's...it's Justin." He seemed to look through me whenever I spoke. Even when I was trying to sneak a few glances at him out of the corner of my eye, every time I peeked, he was looking right back at me. His gaze was so frighteningly intense. Most people back down if you stare them right in the eye, but not this boy, he looked right back at me and wasn't afraid to let me know it.
"Much better. My name is Taryn. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Justin." He said, sticking out his hand. I shook it loosely, and then he continued. "You really don't want to jump, do you?"
"Yes I do. That's what I came here to do tonight before you interrupted."
"Let's be serious Justin, if you really wanted to jump you would have done so without stopping to think about it. Ask yourself this...did I really stop you, or did you stop yourself?" He waited for an answer, but I didn't know what to say to him. He was just so weird about the whole thing. I mean if I saw someone about to kill themselves, I would hardly be this calm about it. "One of the many things I've learned in life Justin, is that you should never act on any impulse that requires hesitation. Either you do it or you don't. That's all there is to it." He moved a step closer to me and flashed me another slight grin. I took a step back, leaning against the rail. Normal people don't act like this, he couldn't have been a city boy. We just have an understanding in the city that you don't look somebody in the eye for too long, you don't talk to strangers at any length, and you don't stand so close that you invade their personal space, or whatever. It was like he was subliminally telling me that he had absolutely nothing to fear from me at all. Not one twitch, not a shiver, not a shake, not a blink, not a single bead of sweat on his brow. It was a confidence that I had never even seen in a grown man before, much less a teenage boy. He just kept staring me down, and it rattled me a little bit.
He took another step forward, causing me to lean back a bit more, and I could hear the waves splashing on the sides of the dock behind me. I was nervous, partially because this kid could be some kind of psycho for all I know. He could push me over the side and end it all right then and there. And suddenly, my survival became more important than anything else at that moment. Funny thing, a suicidal person wanting to survive. But there was something else that scared me too. His forwardness, his voice, his soothing words...they did something to me. To have such a good looking kid be this close to me was a bit unnerving. I had never really been close with a boy before, especially the really good looking ones. I always pushed them away, afraid that they'd find out about me. Always afraid that I'd give off some tell tale signal, or accidently get an erection and give myself away. But Taryn didn't seem to mind at all. It was like he could sniff me out from a mile away, and he wasn't afraid to be close to me. His eyes, his hypnotic eyes, they came closer to me with his every step, and I began to tremble as he reached out his hand to take mine. It was then that I realized that I was leaning back almost all the way over the side. Another inch or two, and I would have fallen in for sure.
"I can help you Justin. You just have to let me do it." His hand remained outstretched for a second, then I shakily reached up to hold it. He pulled me to an upright position, our faces only five or six inches apart. He was so beautiful. A weird feeling of infatuation rose up inside of me and my stomach felt queasy as it began to shake from the inside. I was speechless, and he could tell. He stared directly into my soul. The tension rose between us, and I had never experienced a feeling like it before in my life. Then he leaned forward, ever so slightly, as though he were going to kiss me or something. I involuntarily jerked back a little, not ready to accept whatever he was getting ready to do for me. I don't know why, a kiss from this lovely boy would be pure magic, I was sure of that. But I was acting on instinct, and the fact that a kiss from him would be so easy to get after waiting years for the chance to share one with another boy for the first time, scared me off.
When I jerked my head back, he stopped, smiled at me, and then grasped my hand a little tighter. "Come here. Let me show you something." He grinned, and finally backed off a little bit. He pulled me to the end of the dock, into the shadow of the anchor where he was sitting before, and he pointed out into the darkness. "Look at it, isn't it beautiful."
"Isn't what beautiful?" I asked confused. I didn't see anything but a dark sky and even darker water.
"All of it, the whole picture. You look at the water and you see death, but I look at it, and I see life. Just think, these waves have been in constant motion, never ceasing to move and flow, for hundreds of years. And it will continue to move until the end of time." I looked at him, wondering exactly what the hell he was getting at. What did this have to do with my suicide? I thought about who this kid was and why he felt the need to befriend me all of the sudden.
"You have so many questions, Justin. Can't you just enjoy the moment?" He said out of the blue. There it was again. That weird feeling that even my deepest thoughts were an open book to him. Did he know everything that I was thinking?
"Look...it was nice meeting you and all, Taryn. But I should really get going now."
"Sure...so you could come back tomorrow and try to kill yourself again? I understand, you'll need your sleep." He said sarcastically.
This time, him making light of my situation angered me. "LOOK! You don't know anything about me okay? You don't know all the things that I've had to put up with over the last few years of my life!" I yelled, breaking the silence of the once peaceful dock.
"You're right, I don't. And if you don't mind, I would rather not. I've got my own problems to deal with, I don't have time to force you to talk about yours. But if you DO want to share, I can lend you a friendly ear."
"I don't want your help! I live a shitty life and I've done everything I can to make it right! Nothing works, this world is made of pain and sorrow, and my life is just meaningless at this point. So back off!" I shouted, tears forming in the corners of my eyes as I held back my emotions as best I could.
"Awww...poor baby. Justin doesn't like his life, so he's just going to throw it away like yesterdays trash. He's had a few hard times, a few ordeals to face, and now he's fed up and he's going to kill himself to teach them all a lesson. Am I right?" What was he doing to me? Why couldn't he just shut up and leave me alone. I balled up my fist, ready to hit him with everything I got, but I was afraid that if I started punching him, I'd never stop, until he was dead. I was that angry.
"Shut up! Okay! Just shut the fuck up and leave me alone!" I said it through gritted teeth, my fists ready to fly at the next words that came out of his mouth. But he just grinned, and then he turned his back on me. He looked over the railing out into the darkness again, not even remotely worried that I was ready to beat him to a bloody pulp right there where he stood. He simply didn't care. But I held it back.
"Remember what I told you Justin? If it requires hesitation, you simply aren't ready to make that move." He said, looking the other way. He KNEW. He could sense it, and he was almost daring me to do it. Then he calmly went on. "It's not so bad you know...your situation. You're alive. You should be proud of that, not regretful. Life isn't about how much pain you've suffered, it's about how you get past it, and how you overcome it in the end."
"You don't understand," I sobbed angrily, but in a nicer tone of voice, "I've lost everything Taryn...everything." Something about this boy, his words and his confidence, it actually made me WANT to be saved for once. And it almost seemed like he had the power to do it. I don't know why, but this was no ordinary boy, and I knew it right away.
"So you're going to lose your life too? Does that make sense?"
"Nobody in this world cares about me except my mom and my best friend. One is an alcoholic and one is terminally ill."
"If nobody cares about you Justin, then what would your death prove? Who would it hurt? The only people who will suffer are your best friend and your mom. Do they deserve that pain? Face it, in the end, the people who don't care really don't matter at all. It's the people you love, and the people who love you that should be your focus. The rest are all extras in a movie that YOU are directing. You say you have nothing left, you don't know how wrong you are."
He never looked back at me, never met my eyes, he just kept his back to me and peered out into the cool waters of the lake. His soft hair blowing in the wind. He had an answer for everything, as though he knew what I was going to say before I even said it. I tried to hold on to my sorrow, tried to make it hurt me again so I could go through with this. I didn't want to be interrupted. I didn't want to be convinced into living my life for one more day, going back hopeful and facing the dreary reality that it simply wasn't going to get any better. "I've just...I just...I've lost my will to go on any more."
"You haven't lost your will, Justin. You've just lost your perspective on what's good about life."
"There's nothing good about my life."
"Not YOUR life, life in general." Taryn said, leaning over the side to spit a loogie into the lake. It was weird the way he kept talking about life as though he weren't a part of it anymore. Like he had left it behind a long time ago. "You know what life is Justin? It's possibilities. ENDLESS possibilities. If one doesn't work out, you just take another. If ten don't work out, there's ten more to take their place. Just because we don't see them all at once, or don't want to make the effort to reach them, or aren't patient enough to wait for the time to be right, doesn't mean those possibilities don't exist. You take a million things for granted every single day, and you don't even know it. Things like a good laugh, a sweet memory, the smell of movie popcorn..." Taryn trailed off, staring out into space. He almost sounded like he was getting ready to cry. I didn't exactly know how to take that, it was the very first sign of any weakness he had shown me since we had been out here. I stepped closer, and he must have heard me, because he straightened up and wiped his eyes clean. "...or even a good sunrise." He continued. "Have you ever seen the sunrise, Justin?"
"You know, it rises right over there, right on the horizon in front of your very eyes. You can actually see it grow out of the lake. It's soooo beautiful." He whispered. But he wasn't telling me this from experience so much as he was from memory. Cute as Taryn was, he was just so odd. "The sun rises every single day, Justin. EVERY...SINGLE....DAY. But how many do you actually get to see? 20 or 30? 50 if you're a fanatic about it. Out of all those lovely sunrises, we only take time to notice a few of them. And all that glorious beauty is wasted, wasted on a world full of people who couldn't be bothered to see it for what it is. We spend so much time concentrating on our problems and our petty little conflicts...that the truly wonderful aspects of life pass right by us. And once it's gone...we whine and complain about how we missed out. Feeling sorry for ourselves while even more beauty passes us by again. It's and endless circle that you just have to be willing to break." He said. Taryn's voice was becoming shaky as he preached his point, and I knew he was crying then. The worst part was, that out of all the beautiful things he was talking about, he seemed to be the most fantastic spectacle of them all. I caught myself just staring at the back of his head, his shoulders, his wisps of hair as the wind caused it to sway back and forth with every gust. I was drawn to him, filled with this strange attraction that led to thoughts of holding him in my arms instead of the sexual fantasies I was used to. I imagined what his green eyes would look like filled with tears, and I walked up to the railing, hoping to get a glimpse of them again. They were so addictive.
The second I leaned forward enough to look, he turned his head, hiding his eyes from me completely. "What time is it?" He asked with a sniffle.
"It's...about 4:30 according to my watch." I said. It surprised me that I had been out there for an hour and a half already. It flew by so fast, especially since Taryn came along.
"Shit. I've gotta go dude." He said, turning to walk away. He seemed so sad, so alone. I wanted to be there for him in every possible way, but how could I help him if I couldn't even help myself. I thought about the whole conversation, and figured that maybe he had a point about only focusing on the bad in life. But what he didn't understand was that it was too late for me. I had to do this, I was too far in the hole to try to redeem myself now. I figured, I'd wait until he was out of sight, then jump anyway. I might not make it to another day, but at least I'll know I spent my last few moments on earth in love, or at least with a good friend. Someone who finally gave a damn. But the second the thought of jumping crossed my mind, Taryn turned to face me again. His eyes wet with tears, and flashing me again with that strange golden glow. I squinted to try to get a better look, but as soon as he saw me looking, he reached in his pockets and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. He put them on and walked over to me, quickly, but softly. "Make me a promise Justin...tell me you won't jump." He said.
"I promise. Now just go." I said, trying to get rid of him. But once again, he could easily tell I was lying, and looked a little hurt by it.
"I can't tell you what to do Justin, the decision is yours and yours alone. But choose life dude, it's so much better than any easy fix."
"No matter what happens Taryn, it's not your fault, okay?" I said. I tried to ease his mind, in case he was on a mission to stop me so his conscious wouldn't get all screwed up. But somehow it was more than that. He had something to tell me, something he was holding back. Did he know? Did he know I was watching him, that I wanted to hold him for that brief moment on the railing? I couldn't see his eyes, so they gave me no answers, but I could tell he knew exactly what was on my mind.
"We all have our secrets Justin, believe me. I can help you, but you have to make me a promise. And you have to stick to it no matter what...okay?" He said hopefully.
There was no point in masking my feelings from him, so I decided to at least hear him out. "Go ahead."
"Go back to your life Justin. Just for one week. Make an effort to see the good things in the world. Take time to appreciate everything you have, everything you could have. Give life a chance Justin, don't give up on it just yet."
I knew there was more to this, so I looked at him and asked, "And...what if I don't find the good in it?"
Taryn looked down at his feet, his sunglasses were slightly buried under his silken locks of reddish brown hair, and he sighed out loud. "...If in seven days of a TRUE effort, you don't find what it is you need to make your life mean something......then meet me here on the docks. One week from today, same time, 3 AM. Then I can help you."
And with that said, he started to walk away. I called out to him, "But what can YOU do? Taryn? TARYN?" But he just kept walking. And soon that walk broke out into a trot and in less then a minute, he was out of sight. I thought about the events of the entire encounter, and turned to look at the lake one last time. I saw the brightening sky, and I knew sunrise would be upon me in about a half hour or so. I could have gone home, but after hearing Taryn's words, I decided to stick around and see what it was all about. What was so fabulous about a sunrise anyway?
I stayed on the dock, leaning against the anchor, and waited for this miraculous experience he was talking about. Couldn't be all that great. The sun rises EVERY morning, just like he said. What was going to make this one so special? I waited, and I waited, and the sky brightened up, and the birds came out, and the lake was slowly turning from green to a spectacular blue. And then it happened...the very first spot of sunlight crept over the horizon. I didn't think much of it at first, but as it grew, and expanded in front of me, I got this sudden feeling of...I don't know. I never knew the sun was so big, I've never really been able to stare at it before. It swelled in front of me, rising out of the lake like a fiery balloon, and the reflection of it in the lake danced with every rippling wave. It kept growing, larger and larger, filling the sky with this dazzling light, a combination of many splendid colors. The clouds came to life, the waves rushed towards the shore and looked as though they came from the sun itself. The very nature of such a thing suddenly made me realize how small I was in comparison. How small my problems, my fears, my worries, everything was when put side by side with the sun. It had risen every single day for billions of years before me and would for billions of years after me. I can't put into words what it did to calm me, but it did. And I was suddenly so ashamed for never having taken notice of it before. Taryn was right...this was beautiful. And I suddenly wished that he could be there to share it with me.
I didn't get any sleep that night, partially from being only an hour from having to go to school anyway by the time I got home, partially because I was still in awe of my very first sunrise. But there was something else as well. Something deeper. Taryn...this kid, that I had never known in my entire life, had approached me at the end of my rope, at my lowest point, and literally brought me back from the dead. He had lifted my spirits when they were down too low for me to reach them, and for the first time in my whole miserable life...I felt as though someone understood me. It left me with a weird mixture of confusion and excitement. My every thought was full of him, his soft voice, his confident demeanor, his abnormally green eyes, his tearful words on the dock. No matter what I decided after this week, I knew I would go back and see him again anyway. I had to, I was actually anxious for the experience. Something about him was just so cool, so 'hidden'...and I just wanted to know more about him. Where he was from, what he liked to do, what he liked about walking around in the middle of the night, everything. I spent the whole morning thinking of what to say to him the next time I saw him, I had so many questions, so many things I wanted to say to him. I was almost at the point of wanting to write it all down on a piece of paper so I wouldn't forget anything. It had been so long since I'd been this excited, since I felt so in tune with another person. In fact, it was that morning that I realized how long it had been since I felt ANYTHING. I started paying attention to the little things, just like he said, as I walked through the neighborhood streets. A blue sky, the laughter of children as I walked to school, the warmth of the spring sun, falling of green leaves to the concrete in front of me every so often. I had never noticed the vibrant colors and simple pleasures of an average day before. I looked at things with new eyes, and to be honest, it really was a sight to behold. It was almost a shame to go inside when I finally arrived at the school's front lawn.
As soon as I sat down in my classroom, still reeling from the tiny pleasures of life, things began to fall back into place. My teacher humiliated me right away for being four minutes late to class, the kids laughed at me, I felt spitballs being shot at me, hitting me in the back of the head. As soon as I turned around to tell them to stop, they only laughed again, pretending it wasn't them. All of them pointing the finger at someone else, with giant smiles on their faces. If only they knew how close they came to not having anyone to tease anymore last night. I tried to pay attention, but the sticky, wet paper wads hit me all at once, in a flurry from all directions. Sometimes it seemed like the whole class, maybe even the whole world, was in on the joke. Everyone but me. I had put up with sooo much. And I never understood why. Why had I become the target? Was it the way I looked? The slight squeak in my voice? My clothes, my hair? Did I piss somebody off somewhere along the way? What had I done to make them hate me so much that they all felt they needed to torment me every minute of the day? I'd readily apologize for whatever it was I did that was so unforgivable, if only I knew what it was. And as the spitballs continued to hit the back of my head, I felt my beautiful dream world shatter around me, and the misery and pain of life crept back into my eyes. Was Taryn better than me? How could he see the beauty in THIS? I refused to turn around, refused to give them the satisfaction of letting those bastards know that they were basically breaking me down to almost nothing with their unprovoked hatred. But as hard as I tried to be strong, I just couldn't fight them all, I couldn't protect myself from their torture, and as I felt a particularly wet spitball splatter on the back of my neck, a quiet cheer and laughter following it...my once bright world turned black again. I leaned my head forward, trying to block out the pain, trying to see past the assholes behind me and think about all the reasons I had to live, to go on, to be strong. But they never stopped, and the more I ignored them, the worse it got, and not one other person in the class said anything to stop them. I leaned forward more, and silently began to cry, two small rivers of tears falling from each eye, and I quickly made an attempt to wipe them away before anyone saw me. But the tears kept welling up inside, and they seemed to come from my very soul, tortured and broken as it was. They might as well have been tears of blood, because they were more painful than the usual waterworks. I needed to get away, just for a few minutes.
"Ms. Shire? Can I be excused to go to the bathroom for a second?" I said, trying to control the sobs in my voice, and being as polite as I could.
She looked over at me and said with a sneer, "First you walk into my class late, and now you expect me to sit here and let you interrupt me while you get up and walk the halls?"
"Ms. Shire..." I said, holding back for a second to keep from sobbing out loud. "...please...?"
"The answer is no Justin. When I'm finished talking, and have assigned everybody their homework, THEN you can go." And without another word, she turned back to the blackboard and went back to her lecture.
I was trapped, I just had to sit there and take it, to endure whatever they threw my way, and no one could help me. I couldn't even help myself. The urge to cry built up inside of me even more and I was almost ready to burst when I heard the guy behind me whisper, "Yeah, you're not going anywhere ya little faggot!" Sometimes, it was almost as if they knew about me. Maybe they did, maybe their teasing was a result of my feelings for other boys. But was it really all so bad? I couldn't help it, I couldn't change it. Was my sexual orientation so forbidden and wrong that it warranted this level of abuse?
I heard more whispers, more giggles, and it was like everyone else around me could care less. Why wasn't anybody stopping this? I felt so cold, so alone...there was no glorious sunrise in this room. No soothing words, no beauty, no salvation...only the suffering that drove me to death's door in the first place. I couldn't hold back anymore, and more tears rolled down my cheeks, a flood compared to what was coming out before.
One of the girls behind me whispered, "Omigod...look! He's crying, you guys made him cry!" She seemed so pleased, so happy to have gotten the desired result. I suppose there is a certain feeling of accomplishment in completely breaking a boy's spirt. I just wish that for once I could be on the other side of that achievement.
The other's laughed again, and another boy said, "Geez, what a pussy! They're just spitballs for crying out loud, and now he's getting all oversensitive on us." They had no idea what they were doing to me. Even if they understood that I was in great pain, they could never know to what level that pain was at that morning. Finally, when I simply couldn't take anymore, I heard one of them lean forward and whisper, "That's it...just cry about it you little bitch. 'Cause there's nothing else you could ever do about it."
That was it! I jumped up from my seat, knocking my entire desk over, and letting it crash to the floor behind me. I lunged at the first kid I saw and began swinging wildly, hitting him with every bit of strength I had and then some. I cried tears of anger as I lashed out at them, and once I saw that I had bloodied his nose, I almost felt justified. But not quite. The rest of the class sprang to attention and became a full blown cheering squad around us, raising my adrenaline levels to heights they had never reached before. I was GLAD to see him bleeding, GLAD to see him in pain. The warm red liquid ran out of his nose and mouth, and some of it stained my fist as I struck him harder and harder with every blow. I took out my every aggression on this poor soul, feeling that he deserved it, that he provoked it, and now he would have to feel it's fury. I felt the teacher rip me off of him like I was nothing, and I was suddenly detained and controlled. I looked down at what I had done, at the surprised looks on the kids' faces, at the turned over desks and chairs, and the bloodstained face of the boy who pushed me too far. It didn't even seem real to me, the whole last five minutes was almost a blank. My body had taken over where my mind had failed, and I was shocked at my sudden loss of self control.
Naturally I was dragged away to the principal's office, and promptly suspended for the disturbance. I had no say, it was just given to me along with a forty minute lecture about my behavior and the 'standards of the school'. Then he just sent me on my way...no apologies, no chance to state my case, no 'is there anything going on at home?' questions, he didn't even care why I did it. He just sent me packing and said he'd call my mother. And that was that.
Facing her was not a pleasant experience at all. She yelled, screamed, and sent me to my room. Trying to explain to her was even harder than talking to the principal. And once I shut the door to my room, I heard her walk into the kitchen and fumble around in the cabinet. I knew at that moment, she was going to start her nightly drinking, and now that she was stressed, she'd probably be twice as bad as she normally is. I would probably have to set my alarm early so I could clean up the bathroom before I went to school. Normally I loved my mother to no end, but sometimes I almost wished that the alcohol would poison her, letting her drift peacefully away into death, so neither one of us would have to live with this burden anymore. As I cried myself to sleep a few hours later, I could hear her passing out on the living room floor for the night, and I figured that no matter how bad things got, I was going to try my best to stick to the promise I had given to Taryn. I was going to work it out for one week, and missing a few days of school should help, but if this was just the first day, then I'd hate to see myself after a week of this torture.
I spent the next day at home, all by myself, watching old talk show reruns and listening to the radio. Once again, I tried to focus on the beauty of life and its little pleasures, but I just wasn't in the mood. I had no friends to call me and see if I was okay. No mother around to bake me cookies and wrap her loving arms around me to tell me it'll be alright. No boyfriend to kiss me and say that he'd be there. I was all alone. I used to think I was strong, that on some level I was better than those guys for the simple fact that I was a good person. But I needed more than that to feel alive. What good did it do me to be a nice guy? What's the point of being a good person if I have no friends to share it with? What good is it having an unlimited amount of love in my heart if I have no one to give it to? Why was I even here? I wasn't helping anybody else, I wasn't making any big changes in the world, all I was doing was hurting myself. Did I even have a PURPOSE here? Those thoughts and more knocked around in my head for the rest of the day, and I spent the whole afternoon crying, not once leaving the safety of the living room couch until my mom came home to scold me again for not being in school. Two days down, five to go.
On my last day of suspension, I went to visit Richie in the hospital. I figured his smile would cheer me up, make me laugh a little, give me enough strength to get through the next four days when I returned to school. But when I got there he was even more weak than when I left him before. I opened the door, and he could barely open his eyes, barely lift his head. He just slowly stretched out his arms to give me a hug when I came closer to his hospital bed. His hug was so delicate, so gentle, it was almost like hugging a ghost, an intangible phantom whose hold on this world was fading away. But no matter what, he always worked up a smile for me, and I almost felt bad because I knew it must have been draining him to do that.
"Hey Richie bud. How's it going?"
"Good....I suppose...I'm a little woozy today." His voice was so frail and soft, and he had to take breaths in the middle of his sentences.
"So, the nurses tell you anything good?"
"They keep telling me...how big my penis is...I think I'm like...14 inches by now." He joked with a grin. He laughed a little bit, but it turned into a cough and he held his chest as though it hurt him.
"Hehehe, you WISH!" I said back to him. I joked around a little more, trying to keep him smiling the whole time I was with him, but I couldn't stand to see him like that. It wouldn't be long now. A few months, a few weeks maybe. I stayed for as long as I could, and just as the nurses were coming in to kick me out of the room, I gave him a long hug. A tight hug. One that basically said goodbye. It was at that moment that I realized that all the sunrises in the world could never take away this amount of pain. I'd wait the last four days if I could, but once that was over with, not even someone as beautiful and wise as Taryn could stop me from jumping. This world had inflicted all the pain on me that I'd ever give it a chance to. And I wasn't going to take it anymore. I could only hope that Taryn, Richie, and my mom could forgive me. I never meant to let them down.