Ash Black: Draft One
“Hey, I have something to ask”
“Um… would you go out with me?
“What? Hell no, Fag!”
Those eyes boring into me… never ask for a date on the stairs, the firm hand on my sternum as I fall, head over heels down two flights of concrete steps.
“So, honey, how was school”
“you seem a bit down, “
“Were worried about you, sweetie, we care!”
“(under breath) yeah right”
“Asher Black, don’t speak to me that way!”
I hadn’t severely hurt myself, it was mostly an ego thing, but egos tend to smart. My ass was bruised and I felt like a complete idiot. I could feel my face flushing as eight percent of my homeroom class stared at the miserable freshman who had just been shoved down the stairs by his would be date.
This seemed like good time to spill the beans to my parents, the entire school knew now anyways, two more people couldn’t hurt.
“Fine, you want to know? I asked the one guy I had a crush on out, and he shoved me down the stairs? Happy?”
Those eyes boring into me… then again, these two people could be the ones that mattered most in the entire world.
It wasn’t always like this, I used to not be angry all the time, but hey, shit happens right?
(Note* I substituted the word ‘shit’ for ‘maternal suicide’ because it sounded better)
I realized I was gay last year, and it wasn’t that big of a deal to me, at least, the three people I had told were really supportive and stuff, but then I never saw them again as I embarked on the horrifying journey that is high school.
My high school was pretty normal, all the usual minorities and cliques, all were usual except for one, the clique I have dubbed the ‘royalty’ I think you know who I’m talking about, that one group of people that rises above the rest in general awesomeness, and by extension popularity. Those people who play weird sports like underwater polo and dye their hair dark green and everyone loves them.
I have set my sights on one of the guys in this clique, which is dumb, really, really incredibly dumb. But, frankly I can’t help it.
He’s a visual arts guy and paints on the brown bag book covers, and draws these amazing intricate scenes on his binder and the way his long bangs drop over his murky brown eyes while he doodles just makes me… happy. (Note* I substituted the word ‘happy’ for ‘punch drunk in love’ because it was shorter)
He is my prince, he is the royalty of the royalty and he is so far out of my league it would take me at least 60 years at warp nine to reach him, but I try anyways. Which, may I state once again, is incredibly, incredibly stupid.
Mainly because of the bleached Bible belt bitch that currently resides over my house.
Her skin is so glaringly white that it blinds me every time I step into the house, mine seems dim by comparison, even though I was lovingly nicknamed ‘white n’ nerdy” in math class by the sadistic group of jocks that relentlessly badger me with their idiocy.
Her homophobia is so pronounced that she refuses to read anything, or watch anything, or consume any media that even references homosexuality. That makes it incredibly difficult to get my “Torchwood” fix on nights when she doesn’t work.
I just should have kept my mouth shut, I really should have. I’m normally a quiet kid, but when I get angry, which is always, the stupidest stuff jumps out of my mouth, probably the stupidest being:
“Fine, you want to know? I asked the one guy I had a crush on out, and he shoved me down the stairs? Happy?”
I stormed out of the dining room, but what sucks about living in a house with people is there’s nowhere to go but my room, which doesn’t currently have a door because it was taken off as punishment for not taking out the trash. I decide I really need privacy right now, so I go to the only place I can, the bathtub.
This may sound a bit odd, but let me tell you, our bathtub is HUGE. It has a solid glass door and a convenient soap holder that doubles as an IPod dock. I pull my sound cancelling headphones out of my pocket (as I carry them everywhere) and tune in to the sweet sound of not listening to my parents screaming downstairs.
“I won’t tolerate it!!” Brave captain… why are the wicked so…”A homosexual, in my house! …I shot the morning in the back with my redwin… “It’s not his fau- Of course it’s his fault!” It has to be!!”…
“Brave captain, pray tell me, why are the wicked so strong. How do the angels fall asleep, when the devil leaves his porch light on?”
Thank god for Saturdays, curse him for bitchy stepmothers.
“Its 8:30, what do you want?”
She was sitting on the edge of my bed, dressed like a lawyer who had been attacked by a hundred colorful macaws, in other words, a real estate agent.
“your father and I have discussed, and we think you need guidance through this difficult and definitely experimental, phase in your life.”
“it’s not a phase its scientifically proven-“
“we have decided that you are going to therapy, this is a time in your life when you need help the most and-“
“wait, therapy? I don’t think that really necessar-“
“of course it is, you start Monday,”
“but I don’t need it! They won’t accept me unless I really need it right?”
I could hear the whine creeping into my voice
“but honey, you do really need it! it’s just for guidance and for teaching you coping methods, it will do you good, we’ve already set up the appointments and paid for a month of sessions.”
“yes honey, a month, now I have to go, you know how plucky customers can be if there kept waiting.”
No, “mom” I really don’t.
The rest of the weekend flew by, it was punctuated with brief pockets of clarity, such as re-watching the entire third season of “Doctor Who” just to re-justify my fear of weeping angels, as well as the distinct sense of panic when my stepmother came home with a box, but it just turned out to be fancy stationary. Last time a maternal unit came home with a box…, you know, let’s just not go there.
It was Monday before I could even properly comprehend the terror of showing my face at school again, but here I am, facing the massive double doors and praying that nobody laughs at the miserable freshman who just got shoved down the stairs by his would be date. I was wrong, and people laughed, and rumors flew and I was standing in the eye of the storm wobbling like a spinning top not to fall into the inferno. Through this tumult of utterances, one beam of sun poked through the cloudy gossip and that sunshine was trying to talk to me.
It was the prince, without his posse and he was trying to talk to me, did I fall down the stairs again?
No, I hadn’t I was standing by the drinking fountain not looking at the “Doctor Who” tee shirt, totally not wondering how many seasons he’s gotten through, completely and utterly unaware of the slow and squeezing dull ache of my lungs as they struggled for enough oxygen to spit out the words I was planning.
“What? Oh, (he laughs) it’s not a big deal”
Well, you shoved me down the stairs for it, so obviously it’s a big deal, at least to you, it so not a big deal for, me, I’m over it, so over so way over it that Kansas is only a blip on the other side of the rainbow.
“hey, sorry about yesterday,”
SORRY? You made me look like a jackass in front of my entire class and ground my already jaded heart into a fine green pulp and now you want to apologize?
“oh, (I laugh) its ok.”
He looks nervous, why would he be nervous? He’s mister perfect popular talking to the weird kid who asked him out
“can I talk to you about something?”
“when you asked me out yesterday…”
(I brace myself)
“I really wanted to say yes, as an impulse, you know?”
Was this some kind of cruel joke? Were hidden cameras going to pop up out of the janitors closet and make me look like even more of a fool than before?
“I’ve never wanted to do that before”
I finally break through the awkward stutter-y barrier of nerves and manage to say,
“well, has any… guy, ever asked you out before?”
“ha, no, I guess that would contribute”
(we both laugh)
“but I kinda realized… I wanted too”
“wanted to w-what?”
“Ask a… guy…”
“yeah…” (he looks at his shoes)
“you saying you think your…”
(he cuts me off) “yeah.”
“well no hate here!”
(we both laugh again)
“maybe we could try again?”
“y-y-eah, how about coffee monday?”
I sound like an eager puppy, fucking lungs.
“see you around.”
“look at me, I’m the king of New York, suddenly, I’m respectable, staring right at you, lousy with stature…”
I floated through the rest of the day on cloud nine and didn’t even care when I found about 50 notecards emblazoned with the word “FAG” falling out of my locker having been shoved through the cracks, not even when my cousin came by to pick me up for the dreaded therapy.
Now Calvin is a nice guy, he’s funny and sweet, but my stepmom doesn’t care about that, no, bitch only cares that he has a car. Its roof is falling through and it doesn’t have seatbelts, but it is definitely a car, and this car can transport this unlucky child to hell.
Now he was supposed to come in and take notes on the presentation that they give out to the parents while the kids go to another room that doesn’t have window cords, and of course they won’t tell us why, but we all get it, because for some reason, the high risk suicide teens are put on the top level of a 6 story building. (GENIUS, I KNOW.)
This is why I like Calvin though, I know he’s got my back.
“can you pleeaase not come into the presentation?”
“because your mom-“
“right, is expecting me to”
I give him my best impression of bambi and hope he falls for it. He looks back from the front seat and busts out laughing.
“if your eyes went any wider, you could have your own show on cartoon network”
my pouty lip wavers, attempting to contain a laugh, our eyes lock briefly
“okay, fine, your just too damn adorable.”
“what was that?”
Calvin does have to sign me in, and he does, bidding me adieu until he comes to pick me (or what’s left) up at 4:30. I ride the elevator up to the 4th floor, I note that the suicide prevention therapy is on the top floor. Out of morbid curiosity I wonder how many windows they go through a year. I talk to the guy at the desk, he’s nice, he gives me a Rice-Krispy treat, which tastes curiously like childhood.
I examine the waiting room, its trying so hard to be happy, the yellow walls, the orange chairs, it all screams
“EVERYTHING IS FINE”
But underneath the bright colors, you can hear the wheezing of an air tank, smell the antiseptic scent that most hospitals tend to have, and through the door hear the soft sobbing of… someone. Yes, this depressing under layer screams
And that layer is hard to ignore.
I can pick out a couple kids about my age, who are probably in my therapy group. One of them is sitting in the corner biting her nails, another flips angrily through a copy of “The Telltale Heart”, two of them seem to be sleeping, one my age with a cane, one a lot younger who looks passed out. If these kids are going to be in my therapy group it’s gonna be a hell of an hour and a half.
Finally, and I mean finally, a perky blonde woman wearing bright red and extremely impractical heels walks into the waiting room with a smile that seems to be plastered to her face with superglue and a voice so high, it might as well be a dog whistle.
“Mood and thought therapy group?”
Seven kids, and their respective parents stand, I decide it’s not worth the effort.
“it’s time to come on in”
My teeth hurt with the level of high fructose corn syrup in that voice.
I suppose I have to stand now, I would get yelled at if I skipped therapy altogether, and the high-heel lady is staring at me so I could not get away with hiding under the fish tank, I shuffle awkwardly towards the group of people congregated near the elevator. The girl with the cane pipes up in an aggressively masculine voice,
“Hey! Can we take the stairs?”
The therapist looks surprised
“Sorry sweetie, hospital regulations”
The girl rolls her eyes near to the back of her skull and limps to the elevator, leaning on the cane every step of the way.
We all stand in crowded sweaty silence as ‘miss high heels’ pushes the button for the top floor. The ride is awkward, as most elevator rides with strangers are, what makes it weird is how strange these strangers are. One of the girls has pulled her hoodie over her face, the kid who looked passed out in waiting room is standing on top of the elevator banister, and no one seems to care, and everyone else just kind of looks… weird, like the kind of person you would only meet in detention or therapy.
We finally get to the top floor and everyone crowds out the parents go to one room, the kids go to another. The rooms are anything but friendly, the cordless shade is drawn the steel metal chairs are surrounding the massive white table dominating the room, everything else is industrial shades of grey and blue, even the carpet is grey. The scariest part is the folder hung over the white board, in black sharpie ink it proclaims “your intervention starts with you” not creepy at all.
Despite all this, “miss high heels” tells us all to take a seat in that ineluctably sugar-coated voice that she seems to pull off so well. Everyone does, and I’m sandwiched between hoodie girl and a long haired guy who was reading the “telltale heart” earlier. The woman I now know to be our therapist starts the session out with a little speech, which I promptly tuned out.
Instead of listening to the ramblings of the therapist I looked around at the people sitting at the table. There were seven of them, some of them looked enrapt in the little speech. They were the young un-jaded ones, they both looked about 12 or 13 and involved in whatever the therapist was saying. Hoodie girl had even taken her gaze away from her shoes to listen, I couldn’t really tell if the other kid was fast asleep or wide awake the way he was acting, they were both kinda cute in the way baby tigers are cute before they eat your face off.
Everyone else was peering around the room, summing up their surroundings with quick casual eyes, everyone but a girl with long dark-reddish hair, she was staring sullenly at her black coated fingernails chipping the polish off them with a pencil. It was weird, everyone else was looking about like a caged animal, trying to find a way to escape, she just seemed to have accepted her fate and was making the best of- before I could finish my thought she caught my gaze, I blinked away quickly, pretending to be fascinated in the drawn shades of the massive window, but it was too late, she had read the social clue and before I knew it, a tiny paper airplane had landed in my lap. The therapist was still talking so I carefully unfolded it and on the inside there was a drawing, of a witch, wearing high heels and proclaiming in bold pencil lines “ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE”
I don’t know why she was handing me this, she seemed to be a lot older than me, like 17 and why she would be talking to the nerdy kid in her therapy group is beyond me, but I knew one thing for sure, she was funny.
Before this thought had fully formed in my mind, I burst out laughing. Two second after that I realized how stupid that was and shut up, but the other girl hadn’t received the message and was still giggling, wildly, uncontrollably and with reckless abandon that is incredibly dangerous when in a therapy room.
Long story short, we both ended up in the ‘chill room’ a dismal closet-like thing with carpeted walls and miniature cubicles facing the massive sign proclaiming “NO SHARP OBJECTS, CORDS, OR SHOELACES ON THIS FLOOR”
The girl sat next to me on the small grey bench. I was surprised she didn’t sit in the next cubicle which was safely partitioned off from the others. We were immersed in our awkward silence for a while until she piped up
“Hey, what’s your name?”
She laughed again, probably at my stupidity. She has a weird laugh, it’s deep and throaty and seems to vibrate the room.
“You don’t need to be afraid of me”
“I’m Jane, but everyone calls me Doe.”
Nice going, two seconds into the conversation and I managed to sound like a jackass already.
“Oh, when the found me I didn’t have a name you see, so they just called me Jane Doe and it stuck”
That’s quite a story
“yeah… hey, why are you here?”
“oh, my stepmom thinks I’m crazy”
We both laugh, harder this time
“why are you here?”
“The one on one therapy thing wasn’t working for me, I guess I just needed friends, you know?”
I nod in agreement
“if there’s one thing I’ve lear-“
She doesn’t get to finish her sentence as the therapist cuts her off with a condescending finger wave.
“I’m going to have to call you guys back in, but just remember, no more disruptive behavior.”
We both shuffle awkwardly back towards the carpeted enclosure of death.
The rest of the therapy session flies by and finally fizzles out with a halfhearted announcement about ‘required reading’ or something.
After a ‘brief’ and ‘informative’ meeting with the parents goes down, I navigate back to the elevator and push the button. While I wait, the girl with the cane pulls herself to the elevator. Before I can get a word in, she proclaims
“You know, it sucks that we can’t take the stairs”
“It’s more of a challenge you know? Like, life is pretty boring but stairs make it interesting, stairs make it worth living”
“I don’t even think your being facetious”
“I’m not” she replies very matter of-factly
The elevator doors ding open and we both get inside.
“you know” she says “I don’t think I caught your name”
she lifts her free hand and shakes mine which I hadn’t even offered resulting in an awkward ‘dead fish’ hand shake.
“why are you here?” she asks
“oh, my stepmom thinks I’m insane”
“oh?” she respond pushing the ground floor button
“yeah, how about you?”
“side effect of partial paralysis” she responds without ever turning in my direction
The elevator dings back open and we both walk out. I almost immediately see Calvin’s car pulled up in front of the building and walk out of the lobby as fast as I can, throwing a quick goodbye over my shoulder.
“see you next week!”
She responds overzealously, for therapy at least.
The next day Monday, or, D-day (date day), and I am so prepared. I brought a comb, hair gel, nice-ish shoes and I have even stolen some of my dad’s cologne. After 6th period I went down to the boys bathroom and combed my hair, and changed my shoes and put on cologne, and I know it was overkill, but what can I say, I’m a man in love.
I walk across the street to the coffee shop, found nice table (with a view of the mountains which I know he likes because his last art project was this massive mural of the Rockies) brushed of the crumbs and went to order my drink.
Now this takes time because I want to look cool, but not like I’m trying to look cool, but like I’m trying to look sophisticated, but not trying too hard, and I don’t want it to look like this took me 20 minutes, I want it to look like I order this every time because a drink this classy and awesome and sophisticated is just who I am and what I drink.
I end up going with iced black coffee (which tastes terrible by the way, but represents a certain complexity of character that I read somewhere guys find attractive). I consider almost buying a pastry to look classy, but it probably has nuts on it that would kill me. I take my drink back to the seat and wait,
Until finally the coffee shop closes at seven and I have to leave. I was there for three hours, twenty-seven minutes and forty-three seconds and the prince never showed his face. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected much, after all he had just come out of the closet, but still, I felt…betrayed somehow. I walked home dejectedly that night and I woke up the next morning with the taste of black coffee still lingering on my tongue.
The prince wasn’t there for the next two weeks. Everyone was pissed and convinced he was ditching (which he may have been) but I knew why.
The week was a torrid jumble of friends, homework, and the constant relentless badgering of the idiots who surround me, until Sunday rolled around and it was time for therapy again.
This time, the group was split into two, my half was ushered into a room painted bright blue, with a different therapist, who wore sensible shoes and didn’t talk like a peacock. She drew a mountain on the white-board and told us that it represented the shape of her fears.
My fears were shaped like a satanic pentagram, no, I didn’t really want to be there, yes, I know I need to be respectful to the other patients, no, I don’t really care that some people could be offended by what I just said, fine, the ‘chill room’ is better than here anyway.
I met another kid in the ‘chill room’ he was sitting cross legged on the floor, his posture rigid, shoulders rolled back, eyes staring straight ahead. He looked around thirteen or fourteen and totally batshit insane.
I sat down on the bench across from him his eyes didn’t even move. We sit in silence for a while until his voice rings through the quiet, unnaturally loud
“Your name is Ash”
“I can comprehend more than one word you know”
“see, there you go, at it again”
“well, what do you want me to say?”
His eyes break contact from the wall behind me and stare straight into mine, a very toothy grin spreading like butter across his face.
“there you go! Words, words make me so happy”
He sighs contentedly and jumps up on the bench across from mine looking almost humanoid, almost.
He sits staring at me for a while eyes lost in thought until finally he speaks
“I’m tired of these people”
I’m not sure how to respond
“they just make me sleepy you know?”
He opens his mouth in an over-exaggerated yawn
“yeah, they just piss me off”
My voice sounds dull in comparison to his.
I have to think about this
“no, not everyone, just the stupid therapists”
“so you like the people”
“I’m not sure like is the right wor-“
“YOU DO LIKE US!”
He looks so happy I, once again am unsure how to respond
“yeah, I guess”
“hey, why are you in here?”
“oh, something about “disruptive yelling”, tuh, stupid therapists”
I nod slowly, for once understanding the therapists perspective.
He opens his mouth to say something else, but is interrupted.
“hey g-g-guys, it-ts t-time t-to c-come bac-ck”
One of the little (er) girls is standing in the front of the doorway, quiet as a mouse and with a remarkably artistic nametag that proclaims BETH.
“aww,” Dean whines “I was just starting to have fun!”
I stand up, and shuffle back to my classroom, choosing to walk through hell, rather than jump out a window.
The prince was back in school, we avoided each other purposefully. Whenever we brushed by each other in the halls, we would give share these furtive fleeting glances that lasted only a second, and then would keep walking.
My home life was even worse, every night I was interrogated as to how therapy was going and if it was ‘helping’ at all. Helping with what you may ask? Well as vague as she was being, I had no clue either. She went to such extreme lengths not to say the word ‘gay’ that it was almost comical. She would instead use terms such as “questionable morality” and “high school experimentation” it was pretty hilarious. What was even funnier was my dad refusing to acknowledge that I was even in therapy. He would ask all the routine questions about school and homework and completely skirt the fact that I was being treated for a disorder I don’t have.
What saved my from this was the internet. I managed to get the names of some of the kids in my therapy group. And after a quick google search I was set. I found the kid who never talks and reads a lot of Poe on a website for a deaf school, I found Jen in a car accident report from four years ago, and I found Doe in several police reports ranging from smoking weed to crashing her foster-mothers car.
In the middle of my internet investigations I am interrupted by a text from the prince.
I decide that I’ve stalked enough for one night, turn off the light and go to bed.
At the end of school that day, I have therapy, again. But this time its extra-super terrible because my stepmom has decided to tag along for once. She doesn’t have to be in the same room as me and everybody else, but it still really sucks.
Everything proceeds as normal, we ride up the elevator with the deaf kid who I wave at. He flips me off, my stepmom gasps and he flips her off too.
We get to the fifth floor and go our separate ways. She bids me a stiff goodbye, obviously uncomfortable with actually being a part of my life for once.
I get into the classroom several seconds late which earns me a stern look from the therapist and take my seat in between Jen and another kid who I hadn’t really talked to before. He looked incredibly tiny; with bright red hair and massive bags under his bright inquisitive eyes, he looked like someone I would have purposefully avoided talking to in middle school.
The therapist starts blabbering about how important it is to ‘touch base’ every week and asks us to give a ‘thumbs up, or a thumbs down’ to explain our week and why. We start with the deaf kid, who flips us off, and then Dean, with his usually sunny attitude, mutters that he didn’t talk to any of his friends this week and probably won’t until he feels better. The kid I’m sitting next to tells the group that he got five whole hours of sleep all week, surpassing his goal of three. Hoodie girl crawls underneath the table when asked. Jen smiles brightly and says she got asked out by the boy of her dreams… and then frowned when she told us he had been dared to do it by a specifically bitchy group of high school girls. And finally, Doe, high off her ass; tells us that she’s floating on cloud 9, and the rest of us can only hope she’s speaking figuratively.
And finally it’s my turn.
I’m about to say something clever and witty when I look around the table and see all these faces that I’ve been putting up with for the past three weeks, and I see how fucked up everyone is and how completely normal I am, and I realize that I owe it to them to be a little bit screwed up right? So I open my mouth and I tell them this:
“Well, while finally succeeding to get my crush out of the closet and finally on a damn date, he stood me up and now because of the stupidity the currently resides over my household, I’m forced to come here every week and ‘share my feelings’ about a ‘difficult and experimental phase in my life”
I can feel the eyes watching me. Beady slits of nerves all trained on my face, burning into my flesh, making the hairs on the back of my neck rise and my skin tingle. I can hear the silent judgment being passed on me and it’s too much. I promptly excuse myself from the room and sprint out the hall, down the elevator and out the front door. I can feel the itchy burning of tears behind my eyes ad struggle to contain them until I can make it somewhere no one can see me. I finally find myself a cluster of hedges and curl up in between them, the brambles pulling at my clothes but I really don’t care.
I don’t know why I’m crying. It seems really dumb when you think about it. He’s one guy, this is one month out of my life spent in therapy, its only one dead real mother and only one bitchy fake one. Why does any of it matter? And yet I still feel the tears running down my face and the burning of my lungs as the struggled to re-calibrate to the fresh air after suffering through the dense antiseptic smell of the hospital.
I’m just breathing freely again when I hear a crashing through the bushes. I turn around and see my therapist jumping over hedges barefoot, no high heels to be seen. I consider running but at this point I have accepted defeat and I simply hang my head to hide my bright red face.
She sits down next to me and doesn’t say anything for a while. She doesn’t try and comfort me, she just sits. She probably is just keeping an eye on me until security comes. I finally lift my head up and am about to speak when she says,
“Your stepmom is a fucking idiot”
I turn around, surprised to say the least. Her voice is at an actually normal pitch, her dumb fake smile is gone and she is actually acting human for once.
“What?” I respond
“Your stepmom is stupid. Believe me I know, my mom was the same way when I was your age”
“Oh yeah, when I brought home my girlfriend for prom she sent me of to faster than you could say ‘pervasive ideologies’”
“wait, you’re gay?”
She nods looking off at the horizon
I laugh after that. I have to admit, sometimes people can surprise you.
“After that I hated all therapists for such a long time, but it made me think that I could do better, I didn’t have to be the bitchy obnoxious therapist, I could really change lives! But they kind of stomp that out of you.”
She turns to me and looks me in the eyes.
“this is the fourth job I’ve had in a year, I have an unemployed girlfriend at home I need to support, and I know how greedy and terrible I sound, but I just wanted to try doing what they said just for once, and believe me, I feel like shit doing it. You kids deserve so much more from me, from everyone! You’re all unfairly shoved into tiny cubicles of mental illness that people forget the fact that you have feelings too.”
She began crying, after she said that but she just kept talking, seemingly oblivious to the tears. She told me about how her first crush took her on a date and then reported her to the school for inappropriate conduct. She told me how her younger sister wouldn’t talk to her for months after she came out, how her stiflingly religious family almost disowned her and how she really wanted to help kids like her so they wouldn’t end up conforming to rules they don’t believe in to get a paycheck. And all that made my problems seem so insignificant and tiny that I couldn’t even remember why I was crying in the first place.
What was strange is that she didn’t even seem like an adult to me after that. She was just as screwed up as the rest of us and twice as helpless to do anything about it. She was just a scared kid, trying to figure out this world that doesn’t make sense, just like the rest of us.
We sat still for a while until she stood back up, her perky grin back, posture straight, you could barely even tell she had been crying.
We walked back to the hospital building. She picked up her shoes from where she had dropped them and with obvious physical pain put them back on. I asked:
“Why do you wear those heels?”
“They’re supposed to bring balance to your life”
And that was all I needed.
When class was over my stepmom came out of her classroom with several pamphlets and a huge smile on her face. I came out with the therapist and the rest of the class who were all staring at me weirdly, which is totally understandable, I did just storm out of class for a half hour.
The therapist pulls my mom aside and I realize as they’re introducing themselves that I don’t even know her first name.
The next day at school, I open my locker to find a note from the prince telling me to meet him behind the oak tree in the courtyard. I tuck it into my back pocket and go through the next three hours literally and figuratively sitting on it.
I finally decide to quit being an ass and meet him in the courtyard. He stands there, wearing baggy jeans and a “Pink Floyd” tee-shirt, stupid hair short after a haircut, stupid stubble not shaved, stupid grin that I love so much not there.
“hey” he calls
“I got your text”
“cool” he says, nonchalantly
We both stand awkwardly for a while
“what are you sorry for?” I say finally. I know the answer, I just want to see what he says.
He squirms away uncomfortably
“blowing you off I guess…”
I fold my arms
“gahhhh! You must think I’m a total jerk!” he says hiding his face in his hands
“that’s why god invented re-do’s” I say, having practiced this line in the bathroom before second period.
He looks up, I can see the shine of tears in his eyes
He puts his arms around me and I say into the back of his shirt,
“why do you think I forgave you for shoving me down the stairs?”
He laughs a little and gives me a quick kiss on the cheek before letting go.
“well, I better get moving”
“yeah, me too”
We both go our separate ways, both grinning like the idiots we are.
The rest of the week was an absolute blast. The prince and I went to the coffee shop (finally) and we both ended up ordering iced black coffee (and not drinking any of it.) At school, we held hands in the hallways and we sat together at lunch. He told his friends to fuck off when they called him ‘fag’ but we both didn’t mind, we were both happy, and that’s really all we cared about.
At home however, it was a different story. My dad had finally caught wind of the whole ‘sending me to therapy thing’ and he was pretty pissed. My stepmother, was then proportionately mad at me for ‘sharing her private information.’ But once again, I was floating through life on cloud nine, and nothing could rain on my parade.
On Thursday night, the night before my last therapy session, I was feeling in a romantic mood after reading Pride and Prejudice. So I raided my savings for ten bucks and biked to the grocery store to buy some flowers. I ended up going with pale orange roses and after paying for them, I biked the ten blocks to his house (yes I know where he lives) and ring the doorbell, hiding the flowers behind my back in case one of his parents answers the door which doesn’t happen. Instead my prince, my knight in shining armor answers the door. He looks surprised to see me there, but he doesn’t close the door, he just sort of stands there. I whip the flowers out from behind my back, quickly and with a gentlemanly flourish. He smiled when I did that, that amazing beautiful smile that entranced me the first time I saw him. The same casual grin he flashed at his friends when I first asked him and out and now that same dopey flash of teeth that beamed at me from the doorway of his house.
He took the flowers from me, carefully pulled one out and handed it back to me, setting the rest down on the table just inside the house.
“Let’s take a walk” I say.
We walked in silence for a while, the cool evening breeze blowing the fallen leaves around the sidewalks like pencil shavings. The moon was in that awkward state where it was almost full, but not quite, but it was really low on the horizon so it looked really big. After a little bit he spoke up.
“have you told your parents yet?”
“yeah… my stepmom sent me to therapy”
“well that sucks”
“how about you?”
He looks at the ground, kicking a stray pebble into the gutter
“I haven’t told them yet”
After that, I take his hand and we walk through the streets in silence.
The next day was the last day of therapy. And I was still very gay, thank god. The therapists had this big buffet set up with all sorts of wonderful chemical store-bought goodness. My stepmom was there as was Calvin and my Dad and we were all tolerating each other (except for Calvin who was too busy hitting on Jen to care.) The therapist was going on about something important I’m sure, as well as purposefully avoiding me, which is very understandable. I was laughing with Dope and Dean (whose new meds were working great) and having a surprisingly good time. Everyone seemed happy, happy to go at least. And even my stepmom seemed happy when she handed me an apple tart.
I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I was too busy enjoying myself to even consider that most store-bought products come in contact with nuts. I knew better, I really did, but I was just so happy that I didn’t even care.
I took a bite, I chewed and swallowed and that’s all it took. I only felt a little light headed at first, my head then started pounding and I had to sit down. It started hurting to swallow and then to breathe. My tongue felt like a massive dead fish in my mouth, everything was slightly blurry and I felt like I was spinning and spinning and would never stop. After that I guess I passed out.
I remember waking up in the hospital directly across from the one I was already in. My head still hurt, but I could breathe again. I looked up and saw the concerned face of my therapist and for some reason the prince.
“What are you doing here?” I managed to croak.
“Oh thank god” he said and then he kissed me.
I know he was scared, apparently I looked pretty dead with my eyes almost swelled shut and all, but I was still surprised and I think so was he. But that kiss rejuvenated me and as I sat up, I saw my therapist smiling at me, and I saw inside my head my mom’s smile. It looked so much like hers, the light in her eyes making up for the light in her lips and even though they’ve both been through hell, and only one made it back, in my mind, the both smile the same.
After the prince stood back up, he responded.
“After you passed out, I called you and Dr. Atwell here was kind enough to pick up” he said, pointing at who I now knew as Dr. Atwell.
“where are my parents?” I asked, propping myself up on my elbows
“filling out paperwork” said the doctor.
“paperwork? Jeez how long was I out? “
“about an hour, they just let us in”
The prince and I lived happily ever after, or at least until we break up. I still see Jen, as she and Calvin are now dating. And as for everyone else, I started volunteering at the psych ward reading out loud in the waiting room so I see them too. My stepmom generally sees trying to make me straight with therapy as a failed experiment, especially because she almost killed me in the process. So I go on, because I have nothing better to do. I keep on wading through the mud of life and I can honestly say that I’m happy. I’m happy because I realized that nothing truly matters. We are hurling through space on a piece of magma that figured out somehow to create life and our petty problems that don’t mean anything to anyone else but us. I’m happy because I realized that who cares? Certainly not the universe, but certainly we do. Our problems seem so colossal to us because to us they are, but what I learned sitting in that cold therapy room for a month is that we cannot let these problems define us. And that is why these people that I have spent four weeks of my life with are the best people I have ever met, because never in a billion years, will they ever let their problems define them.