by Anonymous

"So you'd like to meet next Wednesday? ...Great! See you then!" I set the receiver down and just fell onto my bed, my heart racing and a natural high already setting in. I couldn't believe how perfect life was for me right now. I sighed heavily and moaned in delight, my eyes watching an image of his face I had brought up in my mind.

I hadn't met him more than four months ago and, despite the sensitive nature of our type of relationship, we were already open enough to each other that we didn't bother hiding our true feelings behind the facade of a 'normal' friendship.

I ran my fingers through my short, brown hair and sighed again. He was so perfect; everything you ever wish for, he had. He was smart, funny, nice, far from being arrogant, cute as anything, and best of all, gay. Neither of us were really out, though. Our parents were the epitome of ultra-religious, right-wing, hate-mongering conservatives.

I know sometimes I'm a little harsh with my opinions on my parents' views, but they're certainly more religious than would be comfortable for me. I never went for religion anyway. The religious zealots had, probably unfairly, distanced me from it.

I couldn't wait until Wednesday. Four days were eight too many. I laughed to myself softly and started to fill my mind with images of Jason. There was no way I could think about anything else.

The door to my room opened and my dad stepped in. "Hey, dinner's ready. Didn't you hear us yellin' up at you?"

"No, I was on the telephone."

"Something wrong? You don't have your face pressed up against that computer screen." He smiled at his joke, as did I, and turned around. "Hurry..." he stopped short. He leaned over slightly and picked a book up off my desk. "What the hell is this?!!" he half-yelled. He turned around and shoved the book towards me, a few inches from my face. On the cover, the words, The Gay Experience were printed in bold letters. Underneath that, Coming Out to Family and Friends was printed slightly smaller.

I didn't answer, but the sweat formed quickly on my brow and my palms.

"What the hell is this?!" he screamed.

I could hear my mother downstairs from the kitchen. "What is it? Is something wrong, Jack?"

"Is this yours, Mark?" I just sat there, the sweat thick on my skin, flooding out from every pore in my body. "Answer me, damnit!" My nerve had collapsed fully now, and I was awaiting the bashing; whether verbal or physical. "Get down to the table. We'll talk about this later."

I got off the bed, went down the stairs, and into the kitchen.

"What was that about, Mark?" my mom asked. I didn't answer. My dad came in a moment later, his face still reddened with anger. My mom didn't ask again. My dad had made sure she knew not to bother him when he was mad before. After all, he was the oldest male figure in the household, and what right did she have to try to change that?

Dinner passed quickly, and without a word. The opposite of a typical dinner, when no one would shut up long enough to take a bite. I took my plate to the sink, ran the water over it for a second, and headed up to my room.

I stood outside my door, shut it, and made my way - silently - back about halfway down the stairs. It was a trick I'd used many times before to listen into my parents' conversations - and fights. My hands were shaking as I sat down on one of the steps.

"What was all that about?" my mom asked.

I heard a thump, the kind of thump a book makes when it slams down on a wooden table. "That," my dad said; he wasn't bothering at all to mask the disgust in his voice.

"You found this in his room?" she asked, doubting the authenticity of the book which, as far as I could tell from my visually-obstructed viewpoint, lay before her.

The first thing that came to mind was that I wouldn't be seeing Jason next week. I probably wouldn't be seeing anything next week. My heart sank and a lump formed in my throat.

"Mark was reading that?" It didn't seem like my mom wanted to believe it. She was a devout Catholic and it probably seemed utterly impossible that her own (biological no less) son could be gay. After all that church- going and all those sermons, how could her son possibly choose to be gay? She wasn't exactly the one to think that it was encoded into my DNA - accrediting that sort of train of thought to anyone in my family was quite an overstatement.

"The thing's got a bookmark in it, so he must've been reading it." There was silence, deadly silence, for several minutes. I now realized why the term had become the clichˇ it was, because it was totally accurate. Time seemed to pass at an infinitely slow rate during this pause in their conversation.

"Is this all you found?"

"I only saw this when I was leaving his room." There was a pause. "I don't know, but I'll tell you one thing. I don't care if he's gay or not, there aren't going to be any of them in this house while I'm payin' the taxes."

"Well, maybe he just needs a little help," my mom started. "Some kids go through these phases. Maybe we should take him to a psychiatrist, he just needs some guidance."

"I'll tell you what he needs..."

It was about here that I could no longer stand to listen to my dad's overwhelmingly open-minded dictates of morality. For nearly my entire life - basically up to thirty minutes ago - I had never hated my dad. Yeah, I got upset everytime he and mom got into one of their fights, but it was only once that he ever hit her. After that it was just words; my mom either went out to the back deck and started smoking or my dad got in the car and went to one of the bars and came back the next morning in a drunken stupor. But this didn't happen much; maybe once every other month - not to say that this frequency of marital fights is acceptable, but it had gone down from a couple years ago when my parents nearly divorced.

I got up slowly, so as not to make any sounds that would reveal I'd been listening. I went back to my room and sat down in front of the computer that was on one of the desks in my room. I switched it on, loaded up a program and logged into one of the local computer services.

To: JasonG
From: MarkRil

you know that book i checked out a little while ago...my dad found it just before dinner...he isn't taking it too well...i probably won't be able to make it after school wed...dad's here...gotta go

I clicked on the send button and logged out. I shut the computer off and opened the door.

"Don't bother to make any plans for this Wednesday," my dad started. He seemed to have calmed down a little from his tirade about fifteen minutes ago. "You mom and I are going to take you with us to see somebody who might be able to help." He went back down the stairs, leaving me to my room and my thoughts.

I was crushed, not only would I not be seeing Jason, but I would be seeing some rock-for-a-brain psychiatrist instead of Jason. I closed the door and threw my body onto the bed. I could feel the depression setting in, and I knew my parents weren't going to help dispel it anytime soon. I laid in bed, my emotions of love for Jason, sadness for being distanced from him, and my anger at my parents for not accepting me for who I am all mixing together. The battle of tears, which would continue until I fell asleep an hour later, began almost immediately as I laid down.

I ridiculed myself for being so stupid as to have left the book on my desk like that. I knew my dad came in my room almost every night to tell me dinner was ready. I could lay the blame on no one but myself.

I wanted to lay the blame on someone else so bad, though. Maybe Michael, another gay teen who'd recommended the book because it had helped him; and his parents were almost as bad as mine. Maybe it was Joseph, the guy who'd sent me a message on one of the big online services telling my about the board where I'd met Michael. But it was no one's fault except mine. No one had ever forced me to read the book, and certainly no one had told my parents I was gay.

I performed the daily routine; take a shower, dress, throw some books (I rarely bothered to see which ones) into my backpack, and head down to the kitchen for breakfast before catching the bus. I was tossing a banana peel into the trash can when my mom caught me off guard.

"You don't have AIDS, do you?" she asked. Her voice was weak and quivered slightly as she asked.

I couldn't believe she'd just asked me that! I stood there for a moment, stunned. "What?"

"I asked if you have AIDS...do you?" Her voice was still weak the second time.

Every possible feeling welled up inside of me, but anger prevailed over the others in the battle for deter- mining my actions. I shouldn't have expected anything different; but even so, I couldn't believe that all they now associated with me was AIDS and this falsely-stereotypical sexual promiscuity.

"No," I replied sharply. I glanced at the clock. Ten minutes until I usually caught the bus. Oh well, I thought, I'll just be outside for a few minutes more. I grabbed my bag and went out the door of the house.

"Mark, thought you'd be dead," he joked as he sat down opposite me in the library. " I got your message last night. How'd they really take it?"

"Horrible, but that's why I would have probably never actually come out to them. And I probably won't be around here much longer with the way my dad reacted last night. I'm surprised I'm even talking to you now." My voice was double-dipped, you could say, in sarcasm.

"I'm sure they'll come to their senses soon. And," he placed his right hand on mine, "if you need to get away from them for a night or two, just in case, I'm sure I could think of some excuse to tell my parents."

"Thanks, Jason." I turned my palm around to hold his hand.

"No problem..." he stopped as the bell rang, announcing the end of our lunch period. We let go of each others' hands reluctantly and left the library.

I sat on the edge of my bed with my face in my hands. I didn't know how many more of these "help" sessions I could take. What were they even supposed to do? Certainly not change me, it was coded into me, one could say, to be gay. It was like the medieval alchemist trying to turn lead into gold; an impossible task, but there were still those committed to attempting it.

We'd just returned from another meeting, around the tenth I'd attended. My parents were downstairs, as they usually were in the evening, probably thinking they were doing the right thing. I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. I tried to forget that my life was falling apart around me. I also tried to forget that it was my own parents that were the ones destroying it.

I didn't cry, however. The depression had set in so deeply, and had been with me for so long, that I was almost oblivious to all the suffering I was going through. Almost.

I was failing all my classes, and I could no longer even speak to Jason. My mother, the devout Catholic and Sunday School teacher, had talked with a few of the kids at the church and I had no doubt she was having them keep an eye on me during school - making sure I wasn't spending too much time around one guy. My dad had also come up to my room a couple nights after he found the book and had removed my phone line from my room. Any calls I wanted to me would have to be made through my parents' line from the kitchen, the only other place where there was a receiver.

Of course, now that nearly everyone in the school knew I was gay - rumors spread quick - I had to put up with intolerance not only from my own parents, but from the fifteen-hundred or so other students at school. If we were assigned to group work in class, it now always seemed as if the teachers put me in a group with the homophobic moron who would quite audibly protest, I'm not going to work with this faggot, he'll probably try to screw me up the ass! And if anyone was kind enough to come to my defense, they were then the focus of the ridicule, for, as we all know, anyone who doesn't hate gays must be gay themselves.

I didn't know if I could stand it much longer. Not everyone was going to open their eyes one morning and see what they were doing to the world with their bigoted views. I wasn't even safe in my own house from the hate and intolerance, although I guess I have to admit it was safer there than many other places.

My mind began to turn to darker thoughts. A shiver ran down my spine. I sat up on the edge of my bed again and wiped my hands across my face; I hadn't quite noticed that my eyes had started to water.

I looked at the clock on my night stand. Eight o'clock. My parents would be downstairs for another hour and a half.

I went into my parents' room, trying my best not to make any sounds. I opened the second drawer on my father's night stand and removed the gun. I went back into my room, locked the door, and sat down on the bed.

I turned the gun around in my hand several times, feeling the trigger and the barrel. I could end it all right now. No more suffering. No more hate... No more me.

I thought about how much easier it would be on my parents once I was gone. No longer would the shame of having a faggot son burden their lives. They wouldn't have to spend any more money to get me the help they rightly knew I needed.

I set the gun down next to me on the bed and buried my face in my hands. All my emotions, which had been locked up in the recesses of my self, exploded at the same instant. My cheeks and hands quickly became wet with tears. Several minutes passed before I finally got hold of myself.

I looked at the gun beside me. I didn't see a small, dark-gray pistol. I saw the key to a door that led to a quieter, safer place. A place where I could rest. A place without hand and intolerance. A place devoid of everything but a calming nothingness.

I picked up the pistol with a shaking hand. I had to concentrate just to get my finger on the trigger, because the shaking had become so accentuated. I began to raise the gun.

This is the way of a coward!, I thought. I stopped moving the gun for a moment. It'll only prove that I've lot...and that I can't handle anything. My instincts for survival were screaming out, making their last-ditch efforts towards self-preservation.

Then, I guess I'm just a cowardly loser.

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