Haven't Seen Barbados
By Christopher Caldwell
All fourteen-year-olds are invincible. I was. I was immune to all that names that were whispered in the dark hallways at school, the cruel snickers of the girls and the louder taunts of the boys. All the "fag" names and the "sissy" names. I was slight then, a slender bespectacled youth too fond of reading who should've safely been marginalized as a "nerd" or a "brainiac" by the cruel shorthand of high school students. But it was my languid gestures my vaguely effeminate way of walking and my apparent disinterest in the opposite sex that started the whispers. Nerds and brainiacs are allowed to associate with others of their kind, zit-faced boys who gush about Star Trek and quote from Monty Python movies excessively. Fags had no one. I was a pariah, it was social death to speak to me in a civil manner, the risks of having lunch with me were too terrible to even ponder.
It was lonely, but to cave in to despair, to admit defeat at the hands of the callow boys and smug girls who shoved me in the halls, who put tacks in my seats, who snickered as I passed by was not an option for me. So I built walls of ice, I was safe behind my arctic reserve. But I was lonely. From October to May of my Freshman year I plodded dully along; getting decent, but not exceptional, marks in school and rebuilding my icy facade for each gray new day. Then in May, on an overcast, drizzly day he spoke to me. That was the beginning.
His name was Mason, and he was a senior, handsome and popular. He had a winning, toothsome smile and hands that recalled his name. Strong, large hands. Hands that could crush or build. I loved his hands. On that drizzly May afternoon some churlish jocks had seen me crossing a grassy field and had taken the opportunity to push me into the mud. From my place on the ground I heard a voice, "Hey guys, leave him alone." Surprised, I looked up. Mason was staring down at me, and offering me a hand up.
"Are you OK, Alain?", he asked me with what seemed like honest concern. I was surprised that he knew my name. But then, everyone knew about the little stuck-up fag-boy. I muttered assent and rose to my feet, brushed myself off and with my dignity bruised, hurried to my next class. I didn't see him again for another week. During the following Tuesday he tried to have a conversation with me, but the harassment I had suffered had made me guarded. My answers were monosyllabic and sharp. He persevered. Two weeks later he was eating his lunch with me. Artfully and persistently he peeled away my emotional armor. By early June I began to think of him as a friend. By the middle of June I trusted him completely. When he told me he worried about how I was treated on the schoolbus and that he would feel better if I allowed him to take me home, I believed him. And I accepted. And so, on that sultry day in late June, that day it happened, I suspected nothing. Remember what I told you before this began, all fourteen-year-olds are invincible.
There were only 4 days left in the school year. The heat on that day was stultifying, insufferable. I was sitting on a concrete rise, waiting for the dingy yellow bus, when a shadow fell over me. Mason.
"Hey, you want me to take you home? It's so hot today and the truck's got air conditioning, plus I don't want those jerks to fuck with you." I gladly accepted. A ride home in Mason's pick-up seemed heavenly when compared to a ride on an antique airless bus, complete with snarling loutish teenagers and petrified faded seats that were so uncomfortable that they would try Job's patience. Mason seemed preoccupied and we rode in silence until I noticed him making an odd turn.
"You're getting off the freeway now? But this street only goes into Griffith Park."
He grunted. "I gotta get something in Griffith."
"Oh, OK." I answered, wondering what he could possibly get in Griffith Park, but still suspecting nothing. We drove along, he popped a tape into the console. As we turned up a winding and obscure rode, Prince started singing about a sexy motherfucker. Mason laughed once, without humor, a nasty, superior chuckle. We turned into a parking lot halfway up a hill, it was secluded and mostly hidden by trees. Mason stopped the truck and turned off the engine.
"OK, now it's time for you to give me what I want, Alain." I stared at Mason blankly.
"Don't play stupid with me, you know what I want." My mouth turned to chalk, in my darkest heart I knew, in my most secret fantasies he had desired me, but not like this, not with a contemptuous sneer on his lips, and not with rage burning in his eyes.
"N-no", I stammered. Then, with terror knotting my stomach, with fear covering my skin like oil, I forced out, "what do you want." He laughed. A short, harsh bray.
"I want to fuck you, you little queer. Why else would I pay any attention to a little cum-stain like you? You knew that from the start."
I gave a half-yelp of terror, and shook my head "no" emphatically. He snarled, and grabbed me. I tried to unlock the door, tried to get away, it was no use. One of those strong hands cover my mouth while the other fumbled with my clothes and held me near. I floated. I concentrated on how I could smell the eucalyptus from the half-open truck door, and Prince singing about chains of gold. I tried not to think about what he was doing to me. About the awful rending pain, about him forcing himself inside of me. About the smell of the hand covering my mouth, that strong. veiny hand. I tried to ignore his grunts and half-moans. I listened to Prince until Mason shuddered and I knew that it was over.
Mason drove me home. Smiling and chatty, he acted as if nothing special had happened. He ignored the way I stared blankly ahead at the city streets. he pulled up in front of my house, and as I opened the door to get out, he whispered in my ear, "Hey, that was fun, we have to do it again." He drove off, and didn't see the solitary tear that gracefully slid down my cheek. The next day I came down with a fever, and I was ill until the last three days of school had passed. I changed schools the next year. And I never told anyone about what had happened to me in the park, because all fourteen-year-olds are invincible.
Christopher Caldwell is a twenty-year-old who resides in the Los Angeles area. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org