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Max gets bullied every day for being who he is, but he is silently drawn to one of tormentors. Will he get to the truth behind the sad eyes of one of his unwitting bullies, and show him it’s OK to be who you are?
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Different Sides of the Same Coin
The carefree smile, that made his eyes dance some would say, disappeared from Max’s face as he and his two best friends approached his locker. His shoulders visibly sunk as they came to a standstill and all conversation died down.
“Right, let’s handle this quickly,” Sheila said. Max’s friend unlocked her locker, took out a can of generic metallic colored spray paint and started spraying across the letters painted over his locker.
Embarrassed, Max tried to act nonchalant and shrug it off as he usually did.
“You’d think after a few years they’d come up with something original,” he said.
“Never mind those goddamn bastards,” she said as she capped the spray can and threw it back into her locker. “Bunch of closet case bottoms themselves,” she said decisively and smiled at her friend’s ashen face.
Even though Max tried to act indifferent to the bullying he’d been experiencing for most of his school career, it still stung every time.
“I’m serious Max,” she said. “Don’t even give it another thought.”
“It’s just going to be back tomorrow morning,” Joe said and slammed his locker shut.
Both Max and Sheila turned to their cynical friend.
“Joey, you’re not helping,” Sheila said.
“At least you had a day off,” Max joked and threw his arms around his friends’ shoulders as they made their way to homeroom and to the start of another day at Waterfalls High.
“Don’t you get sick of it?” Joe asked, throwing cold fries into his mouth.
“You’re supposed to pay for the food before you start devouring it,” the canteen lady said as she scooped coleslaw into Joe and Max’s bowls, then motioned them down the queue.
“Pay for yesterday’s heated fries?” Joe said. “You’re lucky we’re even queuing in line for this legalized poison,” he said as they made their way down the line.
“What kind of question is that?” Max said testily. “You think I like getting my locker sprayed ever day? Or beaten up or harassed all day long? Do you enjoy it?”
“As it happens, I don’t,” Joe said, “and I don’t just take it either. If you’re sick of it, stick up for yourself!”
“How’s that working for you?” Max said loudly as he threw money down and made his way over to a table Sheila was guarding like a hawk.
“At least I’m trying to give as good as I get,” Joe called from behind.
“Getting in their faces will not help,” Sheila said as they took their seats. “You’ll just be sinking to their level.”
Joe sighed and spooned a forkful of coleslaw before saying; “After you’ve endured what we have just for being born,” he said, “you wouldn’t be spouting your hippy bullshit so easily.”
“Hey you can’t compare what you go through with those mindless jerks to what I face every day with the mean girls clique,” she said. “If you have morals then you’re nothing in this school.”
Max sat listening to his friends and felt the usual anger that came with feeling so helpless. They were each other’s only lifeline at Waterfalls High and kept each other sane – on most days.
“She’s right, Joey,” Max said.
“Obviously, I know that,” Joe said. “But her grin-and-bear-it attitude is just getting a bit hard to swallow these days.”
Max heaved a sigh and decided to change the course of the conversation abruptly and turned to his other friend “Do you really think there are closet cases in the jock squad?”
“Why don’t you ask Joe,” Sheila said, “he’s blowing half of them after school and the rest before homeroom every morning,” she said and shoved her tray.
“Always have to make a dramatic exit!” Joe called after their friend’s retreating back and howled at the flip off sign she pulled as she walked away.
“Are you happy now?” Max asked.
“Having the time of my life,” Joe said and left the table.
The usual humdrum of the school day was already getting on his nerves, and it was only noon. Brian turned the page of his notebook and started scribbling nonsensical images on a fresh page as his mind drifted to the afternoon activities. He couldn’t wait to hit the courts and dunk a few shots and just enjoy the best part of his day. His butt was actually itching to get off the chair and just change into his practice gear.
As he mindlessly scribbled away and tried ever so hard to block out the persistent drawl of their ancient history teacher’s first-person account of the arrival of the Mayflower in New England, his eyes focused on the page and he covered it with his hand. Brian’s breathing became erratic as he cursed under his breath. He knew he should be more careful and not let his mind casino şirketleri drift like this. Staring at the image he’d drawn in mid thought, he noticed the detail he’d put into the defined chest and slim abdomen area of his picture, and imagined trailing his tongue down the ridges of the hard, flat stomach of Max, making his way down the treasure trail.
Instantly he felt guilt at what he was fantasizing – not for what he was thinking, but for his own cowardice.
Even though he never actively participated in the taunting, the bullying and entirely unnecessary harassment of some of the easy targets, especially Max, he didn’t stop it, either. He didn’t want to rock the boat, and had himself to worry about. Again the feelings of guilt washed over Brian and he just sighed as it overcame him. He knew he was one of the lucky ones. His natural masculinity and talents on the court made it difficult to suspect him of being gay, and he knew most any of the victims of the daily and relentless haranguing would give anything to possess the same characteristics that would make them safe from it.
Ripping the page silently from the notebook, he looked up to see the back of slumped shoulders deep in concentration three seats away from him. Something told Brian that the slump in those shoulders didn’t just emanate from a deep concentration on texts on the table. He threw down his pen resolutely and sat back in his chair as he contemplated Maximilian in his chair. Was he really going to have the guts to go through with it?
“Getting rid of it won’t change what you are,” Mark shouted as he and a group of guys walked past Max’s locker before breaking out in laughter.
With as much dignity as he could muster he slammed his locker shut and adjusted his book bag before turning to leave the school grounds. He knew he shouldn’t have, but he sneaked a look at the group of passing jerks and his eyes automatically searched out a specific blond boy’s head. When he spotted him, the usual mix of dread mixed with repulse and longing hit his stomach.
He saw the green eyes of the blond boy stay motionless and the fake smile not reach his eyes, and the same anomaly stared him in the face again that always did. While it seemed as though his blond crush never wanted to hang with the group of idiots, why did he always hang with them?
Why did guys turn into idiots in a pack? He thought. He didn’t ponder it too long before deciding to make his exit before they found him still standing there when they wanted to spray their next unoriginal hate message for the day.
A sudden flutter sent Max’s stomach into his mouth. He wouldn’t have been able to move even if he wanted to, so he stood awkwardly and waited as the boy of many of his fantasies jogged up to him.
“How’s it going?” Brian said.
Max looked at him suspiciously, waiting for someone to jump out from behind the cars in the rapidly clearing parking lot.
“Fine, I suppose,” he said. “Aren’t you going to be late for practice?”
Brian seemed perplexed by the question, and Max realized he probably wasn’t supposed to let slip that he knew that much of Brian’s schedule.
“I skipped practice. Want to get out of here?” he said.
With a surprised look of his own painting his face, Max nodded wordlessly and made his way to his car.
“Let’s take my ride,” Brian said and smiled brilliantly. The boyishness of his crush nearly crushed his insides and all Max could do was to put one foot in front of the other. He’d always fantasized about what it would be like to cruise in a convertible, but never in his crush’s.
As they pulled out of the parking lot, it occurred to Max to find out where they’re headed.
“Just a drive,” Brian said vaguely.
It slowly dawned on Max that Brian might just have tried to get him away from the school so that they wouldn’t be seen together, and he relaxed back into his seat with resignation.
“I didn’t want to get you away from school because of why you think,” Brian said as they hit the open road.
“I didn’t say anything,” Max said.
“I could see it on your face,” Brian said.
A mixture of boldness and plain lust allowed Max the courage to outright study the features of his high school crush that he’d had since freshman year, and he decided to be daring.
“Why did you want me to take a ride with you?”
“We’ve never talked before,” Brian said. “I think it strange, since we’ve been sharing classes for four years now.”
“Never bothered you before,” he said.
For a while talking was out of the question as the wind created a sound barrier between them, but it didn’t stop Max from checking Brian out. He was also secretly thrilled to see Brian’s stolen glances as he tried to focus on the road while sneaking looks at his tightly clad denim thighs. Perhaps Sheila was right about the closet case thing. The mere thought sent delicious shivers down his spine. After a short drive on the casino firmaları open road, they reached Mountain Point, an area famous in their town for the sprawling scenic vista of the entire city and neighboring cities on a clear day. Brian parked the car at a great lookout point and relaxed back into his seat.
“Won’t coach drill you over missing practice?” Max said eventually to break the silence.
“Some things are more important than practice,” Brian said and crossed his hands behind his head. Even in the fresh mountain top air, the musky smell of boyish sweat and manly cologne that emanated from Brian’s armpit gave him a heady shot of pheromones that hit Max’s nostrils and he had to adjust himself in his seat.
“I know you’re not like the rest of them,” Max said bluntly.
“I’m sorry for all the shit they put you through,” Brian said.
The sincerity in Brian’s voice endeared the object of Max’s lust for so many years to him even more, and he also picked up on definite sadness in his voice.
“You probably don’t believe me, but I am sorry for it.”
“I do believe you,” Max said and tried to focus on the beautiful nature vista before them instead of the sweaty armpits of his crush next to him. “A bit of help would be nice sometimes, though, instead of just a lot of sympathetic looks. Just saying.”
“I know,” Brian said. He sheepishly lowered his eyes and focused on the steering wheel. “I’ve always admired you,” he said after a while.
“Why?” Max asked, genuinely surprised.
“You’ve always been proud of who you are, even despite some people’s best attempts to make you ashamed of it.”
“Well,” he said, “it’s not always been easy. But there just comes a time you have to face who you are and either accept it or live in torment with yourself every day. It’s just too much work to be miserable,” Max laughed.
Brian smiled a brilliant smile that hinted at the boyishness that was hidden behind the guilt, shame and self-loathing.
“I don’t blame you,” Max said. He was surprised at the ease with which he was talking to his crush, a guy he’d admired and lusted after for so many years.
“Blame me? For what?”
“For not sticking up for us,” Max said. “To be honest, if I was in your shoes, I’d probably also try and spare myself the daily torture.”
“I’ve never participated in the bullying of you or your friends,” Brian said, “but not doing anything about it is just as bad,” he said. “I’ve tried talking to Mark and them, but they shut me down immediately. And I don’t want to rock the boat too much.”
Silence ensued a while as they sat watching the sunset over their town.
“Like I said,” said Max, “I don’t blame you. I would probably have done the same thing.”
“No you wouldn’t have,” Brian said. “You’re not that guy.”
“How do you know what kind of a guy I am?”
“I know you’re the good guy, you’ve always been.”
“I’m sure a few people would disagree with you on that,” Max said. He stared into the eyes of his longtime crush and was crushed by the underlying sadness that framed them.
“You know you’re normal, don’t you Brian?” he said, the first time he actually addressed Brian’s gayness. He knew sometimes you just needed to hear it, like he once had, and he could see that it had had a profound impact on Brian.
Brian looked shocked at the statement, and as he processed it, Max saw his eyes mist over. Brian nodded, but he couldn’t look him in the eyes and just stared down at the steering wheel.
“No one asked for it,” Max said, “we’re just the lucky ones,” he smiled.
Brian laughed and sniffed, then looked back at him with a sincerity that was palpable.
“I’m so sad we didn’t connect earlier,” Brian said. “All those years wasted.”
“What, don’t you remember? You were my date on my 18th birthday,” Max said.
“Yeah. We went to Seasons, and you took me ice skating afterwards,” Max said.
Brian put his arm around Max’s shoulders and pulled his dark haired head into him.
“I had too much guacamole,” Max said, “and found that out a bit too late after trying to impress you on the rink.”
Brian smiled a genuine smile at the sweetness of this boy he found himself so drawn to.
“Sure, I remember,” Brian said.
“You were such a gentleman,” Max said and settled into Brian’s embrace. “You bought me a Coke and shook out all the fizz and let me sip on it until the queasiness faded. It was the best date I ever had,” he laughed. Max breathed into Brian’s neck and the moist heat was both electrifying and comforting to him.
“Sounds great,” Brian said. “Maybe we can do it for real some time,” he said.
“I’ve already turned 18,” Max said, “but we don’t have to wait until my next birthday,” he said optimistically.
With the setting sun framing Max’s face, Brian knew this the moment he’d been waiting for, and leaned into Max before his courage waned. He closed his eyes and kissed the güvenilir casino first boy he’d ever kissed before. He forced himself to breathe through his nose and deepened the tentative kiss. Encouraged by Max’s hot and willing tongue, he deepened the kiss and leaned into him more. He moved his hand to Max’s crotch and felt hotness at his center, but backed away when Max broke their kiss.
“Whoa,” he said. “I really think you should buy me that dinner first,” he said as he tried to get his breath back, but his eyes were playful.
Brian couldn’t speak through the hazy lust that clouded his head and just stared at Max’s flustered face.
“It was a great kiss though,” Max said.
“Damn straight,” Brian finally said. “I think we should make that date happen sooner rather than later,” he said and extracted his arm from behind Max’s head and adjusted his jeans before starting the engine.
“You won’t believe how my evening ended,” Max said as Sheila approached him at the entrance to the school.
“Why are you so happy so early in the morning,” she said and sipped on her coffee.
“That stuff will fry your brain,” Max said, pointing at her tall coffee.
“It’s the American breakfast,” she said and loudly slurped up more caffeine in a cup. “Do tell,” she continued.
“Remember your theory about the closet cases on the jock squad?” he said.
“Naturally,” she said.
“Funny thing,” he said and filled his friend in on his amazing afternoon.
“You realize you’ll have to rehash every detail of this again to Joey?” she said seriously. “You’ve been crushing on this guy since the beginning of time.”
“I don’t mind having to tell the story a hundred times. It might start sinking in then,” Max said.
“So did you guys set a time for the date?”
“Not yet,” he said as they approached their lockers. “Where is Joey anyway? He should have been here by now,” Max said.
“Late morning?” Sheila asked as Joe approached with dripping hair.
He ignored them and walked straight to his locker, collecting his books for first period. He was visibly shaken and Max could see their friend was fighting back tears.
“What happened Joey?” asked Max.
“Goddamnit,” Joe said.
“Your face is bruising,” Sheila said. “Who the fuck did this to you? What happened?”
“That goddamn Mark flushed my head in the toilets before school this morning. I just took a shower in the gym,” he said, embarrassed and allowing the tears to flow now.
“Son of a goddamn bitch,” Max said. “What brought this on?”
“He was on at me again to suck him off before school this morning,” Joe said. “I said I wasn’t having it anymore with this bullshit. Getting punched in the halls for my efforts, but then risking getting the clap every morning from him. I said if he didn’t leave me alone I’d tell everyone he was getting his rocks off with a guy every morning,” he said.
“I can actually believe it,” Sheila said as she moved to hug her friend. “We have to report this right now.”
Joe slammed his locker loudly and wiped at his eyes in anger. “What the fuck is that going to do? Nobody’s going to give a damn. It’ll be my word against his and his entire posse’s. I’m so sick of this,” he said. “I’m just over it. I’m going to do my time here and come graduation I’m going to leave this place in the dust,” he said resolute.
“Come on,” Max said, “we’ll be late for homeroom above everything else.”
Max sighed as he threw his arms around his small friend’s slumped shoulders and guided him down the hall, his own euphoria forgotten. It was difficult at times like these not to grow to hate the world and succumb to self-pity. But in the same vein it was times like these that he grew hopeful that his own children could someday know a different world.
The rest of the day went by slowly, and Sheila and he both tried to stay close as possible to Joey for moral support during the day. His only few bright spots were seeing glimpses of Brian in the hall or during periods, when they would exchange small smiles and private looks between them. Max didn’t know where this was leading, and he knew things would need to change with the group Brian hung out with if there was ever to happen anything substantial between them. But he didn’t want to dwell on heavy things now; he just wanted to see where this unexpected turn of events could lead.
He’d been worried about leaving his friend alone for last period, as both Sheila and he had algebra and had to leave Joey to take his last class alone. He did feel better about his friend’s emotional state, however. During the day the Joey they all know and love had reared his head again as much of the morning’s mortification subsided. Exiting class, Max spotted a crazy head of brown curls making its way down the corridor to him and was about to greet his friend with an optimistic smile but instead was filled with dread at the look of panic in his friend’s eyes.
“You did what?!”
“I just wanted to give them a bit of their own medicine,” a panicked Joe said. He looked so small in his terror, and Max could see he was really frightened.
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