Knots, Book 2
by Elias Scott
I did something I never expected I'd do. You know that emo kid that looked so gay and I didn't want to have anything to do with? I actually stepped in and saved him from a bunch of bullies. At lunch, everyone at the table kept telling me I should go over and talk to him, but all I cared about was what everyone else in the lunch room would think about me. And then you know what, that damn Thomas went and sat next to him. It made me feel ashamed.
I tried to coax Matt into going over since everyone was on my case, but he wouldn't go either. In fact, when the guys jumped that kid, he was just standing in the hall like a statue. I expected him to help him. Instead I did. Deep down I think I was hoping Matt would forgive me if he saw me do something courageous. Although, I'm not sure how courageous it was. There were only a few people in the halls and I figured that the three guys harassing the kid would respect me because they were JV football players and I'm the starting quarterback. Boy was I wrong.
They expected me to back off and support them, and when I didn't, they called me a fag and a fag lover. Little did they know. But that's exactly what I'd been afraid of. That damn Tim Barnes, Jackasses brother, wouldn't stop, so I finally punched him in the stomach. I wanted to punch him in the face, but was afraid it would hurt my throwing hand and the bruises would show on his face. Thank God for Matt. He finally quit standing there like a pole and came over to help. They didn't pay much attention to him at first either. Called him a fag lover. Kids were starting to gather around and we finally got Mel Jacobs and Tim Garcia to leave. Barnes backed off once he realized it was two against one.
Matt and I walked Oliver Branch to class. Yeah, that was his name. Everyone's going to call him Olive Branch. I asked Matt on the way to our history class if he was going to forgive me for saving the gay kid.
He asked, "So you think that by saving the gay kid, you deserve to be forgiven?"
I nodded. "Yep. And you know what, Matt, the best thing about making mistakes is we get to correct them."
He smiled. "I guess you're forgiven then."
I felt light all over. It was like a hundred pound weight had been lifted off my shoulders. To be honest, I had no idea how much Matt's acceptance and forgiveness meant to me. Now all I could hope for was that I'd be able to stay away from Randy and Kyle's hot bodies, fine asses, and hard cocks.
I'm not sure why people dress like that Oliver kid. He did nothing but bring attention to himself. He was a new kid, and instead of coming to school looking like a normal kid, he came all emo with dyed black hair, painted fingernails, a fake tattoo on his forearm, and some cheap looking wooden beads around his neck. That's like saying, "Punch me." Plus he was skinny and didn't look like he could raise his arms, never mind hit anyone.
After class, I suggested to Matt that maybe we could be like his big brothers. Matt laughed. Us? Why would we do that?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. He needs our expert guidance. Look at the way he dresses."
"Maybe that's who he is?"
"What bullshit," I snapped. "He'd still be Oliver Branch if he dressed, looked, and acted normal. You know, looked and acted like us."
Matt grinned. "So are you going to be his big brother and let everyone say you're a fag lover?"
"You're always the one who's trying to do the right thing and be a leader, and now you're just going to stand back and leave it to me. If we both do it, I think the guys won't give him or us as much shit," I countered.
"I guess you're right. We'll become his big brothers. We'll dare to be different," he said. "I wrote an essay about that in English and when I had a chance to help Oliver, I was afraid, and you weren't."
I slapped him on the back. "Damn straight. I'm the one and only Andy Gibson, defender of the weak and powerless."
He put his arm over my shoulder and I wished there was someone to take our picture. There we'd be at fifteen, going on sixteen, with our arms over each other's shoulders like we did when we were ten.
Matt bit his lip. "You and Thomas are something else."
I cringed when he mentioned Thomas' name. "What's he have to do with it?"
"You have a short memory don't you? He was the only one who had the courage to go sit by Oliver during lunch. We all sat there too afraid to do anything."
"What? Is he your new best friend now?"
Matt smiled. "Of course not. You'll always be my best friend. But you'll have to admit, Thomas showed us all up at lunch. He's special, and I like that about him."
I shouldn't have said it because it made me sound weak, but I said, "I'm special too."
"Right, Andy. You are special. But you didn't go over there with Thomas. In fact, you were putting that kid and Thomas down."
"Forget about the past, Matt. We need to live in the moment. So promise me you won't keep giving me shit about what I've done in the past. It pisses me off."
We slowed as we got close to our classroom. Everyone was in class but us. "Andy, it's not just you. It's me too. We have all these knots we've tied in our lives and we're dragging them behind us. They're slowing us down."
A memory flashed into my mind. "Remember the day we were mowing lawns and I came with the lawn mower on a trailer behind my bike. I used rope to tie a bunch of knots to tie the trailer to my bike. I couldn't get them untied so took my knife and cut the rope. Matt, we can just take a knife and cut the rope. Leave all the knots behind."
He gave me his thoughtful look. "But these are invisible knots, tied with an invisible rope. How are you going to cut it?"
"You think you're smart don't you? If they're invisible, maybe they're not there at all. Maybe they're just in our head."
Matt grinned. "You're right. They're in our head. Just like sex is in our head. The thoughts in our head make our dicks hard, the touch of our bodies or thinking about a foursome or whatever sends to our dicks and makes us want to kiss, suck, and fuck. But it's all done with the mind. The knots are our memories, Andy. The memories affect what we do next. How else can you explain why you got together with Randy and Kyle? You were thinking about what it would be like. You wanted it. It wasn't your dick that wanted it, it was your mind. They say guys think with their dicks. Clever saying, but it's the thoughts of the past and the future that get our dicks hard. Hell, just thinking about the three of you guys in that motel room, makes me hard. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."
I put my arm over his shoulder this time. "You are a philosopher and my best friend. Together we can conquer the world."
"What are you guys doing out of class?" a burly voice asked.
"We helped this new kids that was being bullied, and it made us late," I said. It made me feel good to say that.
"I heard about it. But that's over, so get into class." Then he surprised us. He asked, "Do you need a late pass?"
We both nodded.
He pulled a pad of passes out of his pocket, filled one out, and handed it to us.
Matt and I grinned at each other. "Thanks," we said in unison.
He smiled. "That was a good thing you did. Not many students would be willing to stick their necks out like that. Now get into class."
We nodded, opened the door, and stepped into class as everyone stared at us. We went to our seats as if nothing had happened.
Coach moved me to second string varsity quarterback that day. Frank Kutcher was pissed and he let me know it after practice. "You think you're hot shit, don't you?"
"No, just better than you."
I pulled my practice jersey up over my head and Kutcher hit me in the chest while my hands were still locked in the jersey. It was hard enough to knock me back a step but not hard enough to catch anyone's attention.
I finished pulling the jersey off. "Asshole. That's your problem. You're chickenshit. Instead of working harder to get the job, you'd rather be pissed at me and hit me when I can't defend myself. If you're upset, talk to Coach Mills. I'm not your problem. I know you'd probably like to start a fight so I'd be benched, but you're out of luck."
"You took my job," he whined.
"No, you lost your job."
"It's not like I own it, Frank." I slipped off my shoulder pads. "You can always get it back, but you're not going to if you keep blaming me. And you know what, I don't really care."
"Fuck you Spence," he spit out as he started to walk away. But then he came back. "We don't need some fag as our quarterback. We all know what you did with Dillon. You hang around with those other two fags, Randy and Thomas, so you guys must all be fucking each other. And I hear you and Andy defended that new kid that looks like a real queer. At least you guys look normal."
I started laughing at him and he got a pissed look on his face. "What's so funny?"
"What's funny is you're so full of shit. You don't know anything. Haven't you figured out by now that leaders do those kinds of things? They defend the weak and powerless." I couldn't help but laugh because those were the words Andy said when we helped Oliver Branch. Of course he was right about all the rest, but he was just blowing smoke and really didn't know anything.
Which reminds me, Dillon Burke's trial was postponed until after football season because Andy, Randy, Thomas, and I were playing football. Andy, Thomas, and I were relieved. Randy didn't seem to give a shit. I was afraid of what he might say when he got on the stand. We might all go down and then who knows what Jackass Barnes and guys like Frank Kutcher would do. But at least football would be over.
The next day Andy caught up with Ollie just before lunch and brought him to our table. Thomas got a surprised look on his face. In fact everyone did. Andy introduced him to everybody except Thomas and me. Emily, Gina, and Alan accepted him right away. He'd moved here from California because his dad changed jobs.
We made small talk. Oliver didn't say much. Just nodded now and then or looked down at the table. A lot of students glanced over at us. Some senior walked by and said, "This must be the faggot and fag lovers' table."
Andy started to stand, but I grabbed his arm and pulled him down. I'd have liked to know what everyone in the cafeteria were thinking. Then Andy, being Andy, turned to Oliver. "Ollie, the way you look is like sending a message to everyone to kick the shit out of you."
Oliver dropped his head in silence.
"Did you hear me?"
He shook his head up and down.
Andy looked frustrated. Everyone else stared daggers Andy.
"So why didn't you come dressed like everyone else? You'd have saved yourself a lot of trouble. Us too."
Oliver looked up. "This is who I am."
"Yeah, Andy," Emily said. "This is who he is."
Thomas, Gina, Alan, and I said the same thing.
"That's a bunch of bull." He turned to Oliver. "I'm not saying that if you change the way you look, people will stop harassing you. It might be too late now. It would have been better to have come to school the first day looking normal and then gone all emo once you'd been here for a while and made some friends."
Oliver dropped his head and mumbled. "It doesn't make any difference how I look, people just don't like me."
"Why?" Gina asked.
He looked up. Tears rolled down his cheeks. "I don't know," he said with a defeated voice. "They just don't like me. Look at me. I'm skinny and short. I'm not a jock. Hell, I'm not even much of a student."
Alan was sitting to Oliver's left. He patted him on the back with his right hand. "Well, you've made your first friends at Edison High. So give us a smile."
Oliver looked down and then up as a smile broke through his tears. "Are you guys really going to be my friends?"
We assured him we were. But you know Andy, he couldn't leave it at that. "This is what I want you to do. Get rid of the nail polish, beads, and tattoo, wash that black shit out of your hair, wear nice pants like the rest of us, and we'll stand beside you."
Suddenly he got a little sassy. "My parents said it's okay for me to dress this way. It expresses who I am."
"Yeah, Andy, lay off," Thomas said.
Emily, Gina, and Alan agreed. I was going to agree too, but figured if we were going to mentor him, or at least act like his big brothers, I preferred that he look and act more normal. I knew at the time that it wasn't politically correct, but I couldn't help but agree with Andy. "It may express who you are, but to everyone around here it says, your a queer pansy, and we're going to kick your ass. Andy and I don't mind being your big brothers, but it's not our job to protect you against the bullies if you're going to just invite trouble."
There went all my crap about daring to be different. Like I said, it's easy to put it on paper and quite something else to really do it. But, to me, daring to be different doesn't have anything to do with dressing crazy like Oliver. That just causes trouble. Thomas dared to be different when he sat next to Oliver in the lunch room the day before. Andy dared to be different when he stopped the kids from bullying Oliver. I dared to be different, although a little late, by supporting Andy. Dressing all emo and shit wasn't going to cut it if we were going to help this kid out.
"Tell you what," I said. "Get yourself looking normal and once we get you on the right track in school, you can dress and look however you want. How's that?"
"I don't know. Like I said, this is who I am."
Andy laughed. "So you're telling me you bounced out of your mother's womb with painted fingernails, dyed hair, wood beads around your neck, a fake tattoo, and your ass hanging out of your pants?"
Oliver broke a half smile. "Well, no."
Thomas finally said something. "Look, Oliver. I agree with Matt and Andy. You're the guy that stands naked in front of the mirror. That's you. What's inside your heart, that's you too. You were born thin and for all you know, you might grow to be six foot and still be thin. But wouldn't it make more sense to get on a weight program and get some muscle tone, dress like everyone else, and see what happens?"
Oliver didn't say anything as he thought about it. Then he looked at Andy and me. "Are you guys really going to be my big brothers?"
Andy nodded. "Yep, but you have to meet our terms and do what we say. Is that fair enough?"
Emily frowned. "What's the matter with you guys? You want to make him something he's not."
Andy bounced back. "Well, Em, he's free to continue looking like he does and continue to have guys jump him in the hall, or he can try what we suggested for a few weeks. I can tell you one thing, I'm not going to be his body-guard if he's going to keep this emo look. Maybe you'd be willing to follow him around and save his ass."
"I'm a girl. I'd get my ass kicked too."
"You made my point. Being a girl is part of who you and Gina are. Being a guy is part of who I am. Same with Oliver, Alan, Thomas, and Matt. And, of course, there's more to us than that. We're all football players. We're all friends. Some of us are gay, we're students and so on, but we don't let something like the way we dress define us. Some jocks do by wearing their letterman jackets, but it's different than going all emo. It would be one thing if Ollie was on the wrestling team and then went emo. The guys would harrass him, but by then, he'd be accepted. You have to be accepted first, before you can go all emo. But by then, Ollie might not even want to."
Oliver gave me a surprised look. "Who's gay?"
Andy smiled. "You can't tell, can you? But one look at you, and everyone is thinking, that new kid must be gay. If your are, that's fine. But you can't let that define all of who you are. Can you understand that?"
He looked around at us and spoke in a quiet voice. "I guess so."
Andy surprised me with his logic. He must have been thinking about it a lot.
"I agree with Andy," I said.
Gina cleared her throat. "I have to admit that I didn't agree at first. But I see it better now. It's one thing to be gay or skinny or brown or black, but it shouldn't define who you are. The way you dress narrows who you are. It forces people to immediately put you in a box. People can be asses, so it's better to go with the flow, until these guys can get you settled in here. Being our friend will help a lot. These guys are all football starters. Matt's Sophomore Class President and plays on the varsity. You can't ask for much more."
A big smile crossed his face. "Maybe you're right. I guess I could give it a try."
Lunch ended and Gina and I headed to English class to learn more about Dorian Gray.
At first, everyone was pissed at me during lunch. But I actually got them over to my side. Ollie's going to get rid of all that shit. (Yeah, I started calling him Ollie) I wondered if he had any regular clothes to wear. But believe it or not, he came to school the next day and I didn't recognize him.
I was walking to first period and I see this kind of nice looking skinny kid walking toward me. He has sandy colored hair, is wearing a polo shirt and Dockers. We start to pass each other in the hall, and I wouldn't have recognized him if he hadn't said, "Good morning, Andy."
I stopped and did a double take. "I didn't recognize you. Did you steal the clothes or what?"
"Nope, my mom bought them for me to start school, but I refused to wear them. I told her, "That's not who I am."
I smiled. "Well, whether it's you or not, I like what I see. Hell, I didn't recognize you. You're a dirty blonde. Who'd have guessed? I'll be interested to see how your day goes. I made a copy of my class schedule so you can find me if you need too. Okay?"
"Yeah, thanks, Andy," he said.
I turned to watch him walk to class and no one paid any attention to him. It would be great if he could fool them forever, but I knew that would never happen.
To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater. - Bono
If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just. - Anita Roddick
Don't try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough. - Arthur Freed
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