Knots, Book 2

by Elias Scott

Chapter 30

Andy

I sure had a double standard back then, one for Matt and one for me. I'd fooled around with Randy and Kyle and hated the thought of him fooling around with Thomas. I'm embarrassed to say it, but I followed them out to the football field during lunch and hid under the opposite bleachers. They didn't see me.

They held hands. That pissed me off. Where did he get off holding hands with Thomas? They sat butt close while they talked and ate their lunch before going under the bleachers. It was hard to see everything, but I saw Matt kiss Thomas. But that wasn't all. He put his hand under his shirt and rubbed his chest while he kissed him. My first temptation was to yell, "Stop!" It's stupid I know, and like I said, I had a double standard, one for me and one for Matt. But this was different. I wasn't the aggressor with Randy and Kyle. Matt was the aggressor with Thomas.

I caught up with him on the way to class, and he wouldn't tell me anything about what he and Thomas did at lunch. It was tempting to tell him I saw it all, but I was really checking to see if he'd lie to me. He didn't, but he didn't tell me anything either.

And then, you know what he does? He walks into his class and gives Gina a big kiss. I stood in the doorway with my mouth open and then headed to my own class.

It didn't look like he was going to forgive me. I told him I wasn't sure I could stick with the contract I made with my dad if he didn't. He put me off. Hopefully, he'd think about it. I really didn't like begging.


Matt and I nodded at each other while we were getting dressed for football practice. Randy and Thomas had their lockers next to mine and were getting dressed also, so I thought I'd be ballsy and ask Thomas about lunch. "Heard you and Matt had lunch together."

He nodded. "Yeah, we ate out on the football field. There wasn't anyone out there."

"What'd you do?"

"Just talked. I'd like to get to know Matt better. I know he's your best friend and all, but there's no reason why Matt and I can't still be friends."

I wanted to punch him and tell him to stay away from Matt. I lowered my voice and moved in close and spoke in a whisper. "I guess you're right. But we have an agreement about fooling around with other guys."

"Matt told me. But I hear you already broke the agreement."

"Not my choice." I pointed to Randy. "He forced me."

Randy gave a loud laugh. "That'll be the day. You're our quarterback, the team leader, and you're telling me I forced you to do something you didn't want to. You wanted to."

I shoved him. "Fuck you, Randy."

He shoved me back just as Coach Gilbert came around the corner. "What's going on here?"

"Nothing, Coach," we said in unison.

"Good, but if there is, stop it. Understand?"

"Yes, Coach."

I slipped on my girdle pads and pants. Thomas was already dressed. He lowered his voice. "Maybe you guys better knock this crap off. I already know what Randy's like. He's nothing but a horn dog and doesn't care who he brings down with him. The question is, what are you going to do next time Randy wants to, you know, fool around?"

"I signed a contract with my dad and there's no fooling around until football season is over. Got that Randy?"

He grinned. "We'll see. I have more plans for you, me, and Kyle."

I tied my shoes, grabbed my helmet, and headed toward the door. "You can forget them. There's no way I'm going to miss the rest of the football season or lose my cell phone."

Other guys in the locker room took notice and the next thing I know, everyone starts quizzing me as they got out on the practice field. "We were just fooling around. Joking you know. Randy likes joking."

"Why wouldn't you finish the football season or lose your phone," Greg Johnson, my backup, asked as he tossed a football in the air.

"What's with the third degree, you guys?"

Greg gave me a serious look. "You're our quarterback. Why wouldn't you finish the season?"

Because I can't fuck guys till the end of the season, I was thinking.

"Because my dad and I made an agreement that I'd have to do certain things. If I don't, he won't let me play."

Tim Barnes, Jackass Barnes' brother, moved next to Greg. "What's the agreement?"

I grabbed the ball the next time Greg threw it in the air and ran out on the field. "Greg, let's work on timing."

Barnes called out. "I asked you a question."

"Sorry Barnes, it's none of your business."

Alan Hodges and Thomas came on the field. I called to them. "Run some pass patterns so Greg and I can work on timing."

Barnes didn't want to let it go, but he finally shrugged and yelled, "Fuck you, Andy."

Matt

Andy looked shocked when I kissed Gina. He must really be confused now.

Coach Gilbert had to break up something that was going on between Andy and Randy in the locker room. Andy told me later that Randy told him he didn't think he'd be able to keep his part of the contract and it pissed him off.

Coach Mills put me in with the second string for a time today. Jackass Barnes kept giving me the evil eye. I kept hoping I'd see more playing time that week.


Mr. Abbott led a discussions on The Picture of Dorian Gray in our English class that day and then asked us to write an essay on a quote we selected from the first six chapters. The quote I chose was said by Basil, the painter, to Lord Henry, the guy who does his best to encourage Dorian to give into all his passions. It seemed so appropriate to where I found myself that day.

I started it in class and then worked on it again that night.

Here's what I wrote:

It's Better to Be Different

By

Matt Spence

Basil said, "It is better not to be different from one's fellows...If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live--undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands."

Most teenagers and many adults find it easier if they're not different and don't stick out from the crowd. Teenagers want to be like everyone. They don't want to be different. When you're different, people make fun of you or bully you. So we do everything we can "to not be different from our fellows." By fitting in we believe we can live "undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet."

To me this is all about just being average. Average is boring as we teens love to say about almost anything. But let someone be different, then their lives are no longer boring because everyone takes notice and does everything in their power to make them be like them or harass them for not being like them. Their lives are not "undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet."

So given a choice, I believe we should dare to be different. My dad always says, "Be different not in the way you dress or by trying to be cool, be different by having courage to stick up for what you believe." He likes telling me the story of when he was a boy and some kids were picking on him. One of the popular boys came up to the bullies and told them to knock it off. They gave him some crap, but they stopped. He won just by the sheer force of who he was. That boy could have just as easily been one of the bullies himself. But he dared to be different. Leaders dare to be different.

I play football. We know that every week we will experience either victory or defeat. It's part of the game. It's a part of life. Sometimes friends betray us or we betray them. It would be nice if it never happened, but it does.

So I disagree with Basil. Basil was a coward. He refuses to exhibit the painting of Dorian Gray because he feels there is too much of himself in the painting. He fears the world would see it, and it would "bare his soul."

In the end, each of us must bare our soul and dare to be different so we can experience "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." You can't have one without the other.

Reading that now, really surprises me. It's not bad for a sophomore in high school. But I loved the book so much, that I was inspired. Maybe it was because I was going through so much myself. I kept thinking I'm like Dorian Gray. My passion for sex had the best of me. Of course, he had many passions beyond sex, and while the book doesn't come right out and say it, it sounds like he had sex with both men and women and ruined the lives of quite a few young men. Even as intolerant as our society is today toward gays, it was far worse. After all, they put Oscar Wilde in prison for it. Looking back, I remember wondering if somehow my life would be ruined if anyone found out about Andy and me and our foursome.

I did my best to put it out of my mind, but it was always lingering there. It was getting so my sleep was as disturbed as Andy's. Fear is a terrible thing.


Gina, Emily, Andy, Alan, Thomas and I had lunch together the next day.. Thomas was quiet as usual.

Andy turned to Thomas. "How come you're here and not with the other freshman?"

"I like being with you guys."

"Randy's your best friend. How come you're not with him?"

"I told you. I like being with you guys."

Emily was sitting next to Andy and slugged him in the thigh. "Knock it off Andy. If he wants to have lunch with us he can. And besides, he's cute."

Thomas blushed.

I looked up and saw this kid I'd never seen before walk in with his tray of food. He must have just transferred in. One look at him told me he was gay. His dyed black hair came down over his ears in an uneven cut. He was small and thin and had his fingernails painted dark purple. His jeans were faded and hung low on his hips. He didn't seem to know where to sit. I thought of asking him to join us, but I didn't really want him at our table. And as it turned out, no one else wanted him either. He tried to sit at a few tables, but the kids gave him a dirty look, so he moved on and eventually sat on the floor with his tray on his lap.

"What are you looking at?" Gina asked.

I pointed. "That new kid."

"Boy does he look gay," Andy commented.

Emily punched him again and said in a low voice. "You're gay. So what?"

"Maybe so, but at least I don't look gay. That guy is looking for trouble."

I'm a little ashamed now, but said, "I think you're right. It's nice to be different, but he's going to bring a lot of pain on himself."

And then Thomas did the damndest thing, he got up, grabbed his lunch, and went over and sat next to him. You've got to respect that.

None of the rest of us moved.

I was thinking, everyone in this room is going to think Thomas is looking for a fuck, or at least a gay guy. Then I thought of my essay. But I didn't do anything. Looking at it now, I guess writing about something is easier than actually doing it. I had to respect Thomas though and remember thinking, I could really love that guy.

Gina smiled. "Thomas has courage."

"Or he's stupid as hell," Andy added.

Emily nudged Andy. "You're gay, why don't you go over and join them? That would be the right thing to do."

Alan nodded his head. "Emily's right. You should go over there."

"I have my reputation to think of. I don't want everyone to think I'm a fag." Then he looked at me. "Matt, why don't you join them? No one thinks you're gay, you're on the varsity football team, and it would be the right thing to do."

Anger boiled inside while I tried to keep a calm exterior. I gave Andy an obnoxious smile. "If you go, I'll go."

That put an end to that. Kids in the cafeteria kept looking over at Thomas and the new guy while we went on talking about anything other than the two of them.

Gina grabbed my hand under the table, and when the bell rang she gave me a kiss. We turned our essays into Mr. Abbott, who gave us a grammar lesson and said we'd continue with Dorian Gray once he had a chance to look at the essays.

I headed out of class and down the hall to my next class when I saw three JV football players forcing the new kid against the wall. My first reaction was to run over and tell them to stop, but my feet wouldn't move. I just watched. They pushed him around, punched him in the chest, and called him a faggot. They whispered something, and I figured they were telling him to suck their cocks, as if that didn't make them faggots too. Then out of nowhere, Andy came running down the hall, jumped in between them, and yelled, "Knock this shit off."

One of the guys was Jackass Barne's brother. I started moving slowly toward them as Barnes tried to plead their case. "Andy, look at this guy. He's a faggot if I ever saw one. We don't need guys like him around."

"Faggot or not, I don't want to see anyone on our team doing this kind of shit. Understand?"

Mel Jacobs pushed the kid.

Andy grabbed Jacobs by the arm and shoved him. "I said knock it off."

"Who the hell do you think you are, Andy. Just because you're the quarterback doesn't mean you can tell us what to do when we're not on the field."

"Like hell, I can't." Andy looked at Barnes and then Tim Garcia, who appeared to be just following Barnes and Jabobs. "Now get out of here before I kick the shit out of all of you."

"I'd like to see you try," Barnes said.

Andy acted all meek. "I guess you're right Jackass Barnes Jr. I think it would be better to talk to Coach Gilbert. How 'bout that?"

In the meantime, the new kid was standing there with his eyes wide open before he began to inch away.

Barnes reached out and grabbed him by the shirt. "Where do you think you're going?"

I figured there was going to be a fight so rushed into the middle of them. "You heard, Andy. Knock this shit off. Barnes, get your hands off the kid."

Barnes let go and snarls, "Well, well, looks who's here. If it isn't one of the varsity football players. Now I'm really scared. Are you a fag lover too?"

I began to wonder why my presence alone didn't make these guys walk off. This wasn't at all the way my dad described it.

Barnes continued. "I guess you guys are faggots just like this pretty thing here."

Andy hauled off and punched Barnes in the stomach. Barnes bent over and tried to catch his breath while the other two guys said, "We're outa here" as they walked off and left Barnes there by himself.

A large number of kids had gathered around so we decided to leave before an adult got there. Andy motioned for the new kid to follow us. He looked at Andy and me like we were crazy, and then followed. "Where's your next class? "Andy asked."

He fumbled through his backpack until he found it. Andy grabbed it, ran his finger down to the next period, and said, "follow me."

I followed to and found out on the way that his name was Oliver Branch. I had to wonder why anyone would name their kid Oliver with a last name like Branch, because the first thing I thought of was that everyone would be calling him Olive Branch.

The bell rang just as we dropped Olive Branch off at class. So now we were tardy to our own history class. Andy turned to me on the way. "So, have you forgiven me yet?"

"So you think that by saving the gay kid, you deserve to be forgiven?"

He nodded. "Yep. And you know what, Matt, the best thing about making mistakes is we get to correct them."

I smiled. "I guess you're forgiven then."

Andy did what I didn't have the courage to do. I knew how he felt about the kid and about his own fears because of what he said at lunch. But there he was in the middle of the whole thing, keeping his teammates off Oliver. He made me think about something I'd written in the last paragraph of my essay. "In the end, each of us must bare our soul and dare to be different…" Andy had always been different. That's why I loved the guy ever since we were little kids. He did crazy stupid things at times, but that was Andy, and I was glad to call him my best friend.


Chapter Quotes

Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne

One man with courage is a majority. -- Thomas Jefferson

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity. -- W. Clement Stone

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