Do You Remember When You Colored The Sky Orange?

by Grasshopper

Dinner at my house is oddly dysfunctional; odd because we all sit down at the same time and dysfunctional because what needs to be said is never said. I know because I watch a lot of TV and dysfunction is running rampant. I recognize ours for what it is. We have two morally upright, unbending religious uberconservatives, one quiet, semi-tolerant, constantly flinching fencewalker, and one tightly wound, closet linty, extremely liberal, silent Pagan. Sort them out for yourself.

We sit down to the table at 6:00 sharp, my mom, my dad, my granpa and me. We're supposed to all have stuff to talk about cause Mom always asks, "How was your day?" and well, you can't say, 'It blew."

I always have these visions of telling the truth...."My day totally sucked. Everyday, I want to climb on the roof of the media center and scream at the entire student body that I'm gay. That I want Walker Owens so bad, I nearly throw up every time I see him. That if I can't control all the feelings I'm having, I'm going to dig a hole six feet deep, crawl in it and just sit waiting for vampire badgers to gnaw my guts into tiny gnarled strips."

Can you just see their faces? I think one reason I never say it is cause I'm scared that in his indifference, my granpa would just roll his eyes and say, "Don't be absurd, Thomas. Pass the mashed potatoes."

Last night, Mom made an error. There are unspoken rules about dinner. We're all super polite, all totally 'Christian', absolutely tolerant, embracing the diversity of the entire world..................unless someone mentions anyone different. Then, the roof caves in.

Turning to me, my mom said, "Honey, do you watch Spongebob Squarepants?"

"Mom, I'm like seventeen......Jeez !! Um, Why?" (Actually, I love Squarebob)

"They made a music video and people are saying he's"

UH-OH !! Mom just said the "G" word. All tolerance, all Christian love of diversity, all unity of the world falls into a deep dark pit when the "G" word is spoken. Oh, and to really clarify this, it's always prefaced by 'um'.

"Uh, Mom, he's a sponge," I said, a stupid grin on my face, trying to diffuse the whole thing.

Too late!

"I saw that," Grandpa said. "All those queers out on Hollywood, putting subversion into children's cartoons now. They ought to be horsewhipped."

Now, I know from experience that I can either jump into this or be vewy vewy quiet. I choose the Elmer Fudd approach because I'm hungry and I would like my life to continue.........period.

Mom stirred the pot. "Well, I can't see why they'd use Big Bird, Barney, Miss Piggy, Clifford, Bob the Builder and Winnie the Pooh in something about um....those gay people." Lord, this time she added 'those'.

Here it comes......if it wasn't so awful, you'd laugh. Granpa revved up and pronounced sentence:

"That big bird flounces all around like a, you know." (I inserted drag queen)
"Barney is a big purple sissy."
"Miss Piggy, well, you know, she's a," Granpa said, rolling his eyes, "He." (The Pig would so beat him up for that)

I couldn't help myself. "Granpa, what about Winnie?"

He stopped chewing for a second, then, "Well, he flaunts himself; doesn't wear pants."

I know...........the mind boggles.

"It's that pledge that goes with it," my dad's voice rumbled out.

"Huh? What pledge?" I knew I needed to be really quiet, but this was just too something.

"We were talking about it at Men's Group at church this morning," he said, "The cartoon characters flit around to that song and then there's this pledge for kids to sign. I'm glad you're not in Kindergarten, I'd be down there at that school so fast."

Now, let's not forget that it's a Kindergarten thing. I'd have to sign it with a crayon or one of those huge grip with your fist pencils and would have no earthly idea what I was signing anyway. Oh, yeah........I'd be pledging to be gay. That makes sense. Kinda like a Homosexual Youth Group.

"Oh, I saw that," Granpa snorted. "It's in the paper."

Excusing myself, I grabbed the paper and shut myself in the bathroom.

Blahblahblah........"To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose, abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity, or other characteristics are different from my own."

Ooookay, totally iced thing to say, to believe, to sign. But, there was that sexual identity just screaming off the page.

Folding the section back up slowly, I flushed, and walked back to the table.

Now, you have to understand about me because you're probably thinking I'm a wuss. I should just tell my family to shove it, that I'm gay and they can eat shit and die, but I can't. I love them. They were raised in a different time zone, a different America, a different world. I'm not sure why I'm a flaming liberal. Why I didn't just indoctrinate myself into their mind swings, but I didn't. I just keep telling myself that one day, I'll find people who think like I do and a place where I can say whatever I want without censoring every word. But, for now, I just quietly go about living the only way I know how. I don't play the sullen, misunderstood, whacked out teen because I have too many good things going in my life and I'm not very good at games.....just the one constant hide and seek. I'm hoping someone finds me soon.

Surprise....I'm back and they were still on their most abominated subject. For people who hate the concept of homosexuality, they spend an awful lot of time cussing, discussing and recussing it.

My mom isn't totally like that. I see it in her eyes, the flinch when the words are too harsh. The no laughter when someone does the stupid limp wrist thing. I caught her watching "Queer Eye" one night. I'm hoping that when the day comes, she will hug me. Sometimes, I think she already knows.

"Those fags, always shoving their ideas down our throats. Why don't they all just go to Key West?"

I know.................did you just hear what Granpa said? I bit my lip. Um, Grandpa, I don't think anyone's at all interested in doing either of those things with you, 'specially. Maybe the Key West thing......great seafood restaurants.

I had so many things I could have said like: No one is trying to make you like them or push an agenda on you. We just want to be allowed to live in this oh so tolerant, unified world and go about our business without being bashed or harassed or cornered. There should not be "gay" sections of cities where tourists go with cameras. There shouldn't have to be PFLAG and Gay Alliances. There shouldn't even be a label. I'm just me.............who I love should be my business.

But, stepping down off my soapbox, I didn't say anything. I just sat back down, ate my meatloaf in silence.

It was funny, not haha, more ironic, when Granpa complained about cars speeding by him out on the highway.

"You go 40 in a 60 MPH zone," my dad laughed, "You're a geezer."

"I don't appreciate that at all," he frowned. "I'm not old. Don't call me names."

Granpa......when you use the word 'queer' or 'fag' towards anything and everything you don't understand, towards any man who looks good or talks different, towards two people of the same sex who just want to hold hands at DisneyWorld, towards any man who can decorate a room, plant a garden, choose a wine, blow dry his hair..............Granpa, you need some major overhauling on the name calling thing. There is no way you can ever sign that pledge.........and you know what? It needs signing...........bad.

According to that pledge, if I was a gifted, mentally challenged or just a normal doofus, believed in God or the spirits that live in my socks, baked Christmas cookies or fried cats on ShamalamaDingDong Day, was black or white or red or yellow or polka dotted, was sexually oriented toward girls, boys, both, neither, panda bears or maple trees, then all these differences would be embraced and, not just tolerated, but enjoyed as being what keeps the world spinning. I think Granpa is missing the whole point...............but, after all, he is a geezer.

"Granpa," I said, just because I had to. "If you think about all the different colors of those characters, purple, blue, orange, green, gold, brown, black, red, yellow..................Isn't that the message? They are all so diff, but all very much alike because they were made by God and are happy and being kind to each other?"

My dad smiled, "You'll understand this all better when you're grown up. There are things in life that are to be avoided. Don't worry about this. It doesn't concern you. Please pass the green beans."

That night, I was watching Two Guy's Garage and found myself clicking over to NIK. I settled back and watched Spongebob and Patrick. If gay is what they are, then gay is good. They just bopped along doing little tiny nothings, messing up, but always doing their best.

Spongebob is a cool little dude with his big sponge head and those stick skinny legs. He wells up and cries big huge tears and grins the widest grin. You keep waiting for the plot to thicken, but it doesn't. He cooks Crabby Patties and fools around with his best friend, Patrick, the pink starfish.

"Ah Ha!" they say. 'There it is.....Patrick is pink and they fool around. GAY!!"

Snort.....the world has gone gay crazy, hasn't it? People used to touch and hug. Don't go there today. If I hugged my friend Joey at school, I'd hear "God, could you be more gayyyyy?" within 5 seconds. Gay is expressing affection to anyone of the same sex anywhere, anytime. Gay is having a higher pitched voice or a total lack of anything sportswise. Gay is having girls for friends. Gay is knowing how to run the AV equipment or eating the fruit in the cafeteria instead of a Twinkie. Actually, gay is anything that is different. Forget the sex part. You make a move that is diff and you get, "What are you, a fag?"

No wonder "they" say Spongebob is gay.....he lives in a pineapple in a place under the sea called Bikini Bottom, has a snail pet named Gary and seems to constantly be frightened right out of his underpants. Now, that's diff !! He got to be gay!!

I think its way iced that all those cartoon characters are in a video promoting acceptance, kindness, and diversity. I guess it's a lot easier to accept a tall yellow bird or a big red dog or a fat bear with his paw stuck in a jar of honey than it will ever be to accept me.

I know there have been winks and chuckles and huffs and questions over the years about Bert & Ernie; are they roommates or what? The Powerpuff girls, what's that all about? I guess Tigger comes under the gun soon. He does like to bounce.

We are fam-i-ly
I've got all my sisters with me
We are fam-i-ly
Get up everybody and sing!

I guess that could be a gay anthem; they did play it a lot in BirdCage, 'cept I'm not really attracted to anyone's sister and the thought of my family getting up and singing in celebration of me being gay is ludicrous.

I guess what gets me the most about this is that anyone would even care, and in caring, they miss the whole point. The point is that a happy video full of their favorite TV friends is going to help them take one tiny baby step towards tolerance.

I kinda remember Kindergarten. My teacher asked us all to bring a school box for our crayons and stuff. I forgot to ask Mama to get me one, but I found one just the right size under the sink in the bathroom. I couldn't read the letters T-A-M-P-A-X and so I took all the 'candles' out and stuffed them in a drawer. My teacher called my mama, my mama took me to Wal-Mart and my new crayon box had pictures of Luke Skywalker. I wasn't exactly a brain trust.

I had black friends, Mexican friends, girl friends. I had gay friends, bi friends, friends who wouldn't make it to 16. I just didn't know it at the time. Did I need a video of dancing birds and bears and sponges to tell me to like these other kids? I liked my crayons and shared them with my table without saying, "Not're something icky that I can't like."

Remember when you lost your blue crayon, so you colored the sky orange and the teacher had like a fit cause it wasn't 'right'? I always used to color the trees purple. It looked beeeeutiful to me. What's a color anyway? Why do people have to grow up and become so afraid of what they don't understand?

By third grade, I knew there were differences. By fifth, I was aware of what those differences meant. By junior high, the walls were up and the fear started to grow.

I know you're needing me to shut up now.......where is the story of me? Where is the sex part? You want me to get over myself about's not about Spongebob or Barney or Winnie the Pooh is it......not really. It's about teaching kids not to hate. It's about Matthew Shepard and all the others like him who got kicked to the curb in all the total nonembracing of diversity. It's about wanting to live in a galaxy far far away because Bikini Bottom isn't real.

Shhhhh, done now.

The morning sky was beautiful, the horizon already blue with this layer of lavender clutching onto the big full moon. Walking up to the road to get the paper for my dad, I just couldn't quit smiling. I hadn't gotten in any trouble lately and my project was shaping up pretty well. Life was good!

Having no really visible means of support and not wanting to enter the exciting world of drug dealing, I build birdhouses, small pointy roofed ones for wrens, rectangular ones with a perch for barn owls and long skinny ones for bluebirds. I found bunches of old weathered lumber just lying around out in the dump and I put myself to work. It's cool out in the barn, trying not to cut off my fingers, measuring and nailing. The quiet is nice, just the horses whinnying and the breeze......a soft, almost cold breeze that makes you glad to be alive.

I take my little houses down to Tractor Supply and Mr. Burroughs lets me set them out on the side shelf. Small town stores are the best. I need the money and they need the word of mouth. Maybe somebody will buy my birdhouses.

After my stop at the store, I made it to school a few minutes before the bell. Pulling into the lot, I parked in my spot under the shadow of the big oak. It's my spot cause I'm a senior and seniors all claim 'spots'. I wouldn't really do much if someone took it, but it's part of the myth.

Still reeling from the whole SBSP episode, I decided to be extra nice to everyone today. See if I could go a whole day without being called a name.

"Yo, over here, Pukehead! Where you been?"

Ah, my best friend, Joey. Count on him to give me my first tally.

Walking over to the gang, I did my usual sweep to locate Walker Owens, my eyes casually drifting from one bunch to the next.

The jocks, in the letter jackets, punching and boasting, each with a girl bunny snuggled up on their arm. The big game was coming up..........ha, the big game was always coming up. Sad part was, except for that big game, who were these guys anyway?

The geeks, comparing homework, as if, ten years from now, anyone would care that they did page 97 in the Calc book. They'd all prolly be scumti-millionaires anyway and page 97 would prolly still be in their backpacks with that A+ at the top.

The cheerleaders and general pack of squeally girls, all revved up for the day, any day when they could be admired and drooled over. I tried, I really did but somewhere between the 'squ' and the 'eeeeel', they lost me.

Dang, there he was, coming out of the office. It was like all the air suddenly got sucked out of the world. I tried to keep one eyes on Jessica Bremmer and one on him, but it made me dizzy. I watched him walk over to the bench by the library door and pull his Trig book out of his backpack.

I had done my Trig homework. Me! .......hey, Walker, do you want to copy it? Do you want to have it? Do you want me to write it in blood? Do you want me to like help you every night and then we could get to be friends and maybe talk and stuff and........................

But, no, this was me. This was real life. Look at him, all beautiful and tall and quiet and mysterious. Look at the girls all glancing that way, trying to think of reasons to go to the library.

Thing was, Walker was nice to everybody. If I did walk over there and say 'Hi' and offer to help, he would smile and say 'Thanks, but I've got it covered'. It was better, really, that I just stay over here across the courtyard, minding my own business. Some things just don't happen.

I couldn't stop watching though. I pretended to be oogling Erica Flint with all my friends. I couldn't help it if Walker was sitting right in my line of vision. I watched him frown, chew his pen and then write something in his notebook. Poor Walker, Trig was so ugh. I watched him rip the paper out of the spiral, wad it up and toss it at the trash can. I watched the wad of paper miss the trash can and fall behind it into the shrubbery. I watched it disappear from sight.

The bell rang..........oh, joy..........this is the first day of the rest of my life... .....let there be learning and companionship and just plain whoopdedoo ! I was ready. No name calling for me.........just embracing the diversity that is me.

A fist whacked me in the back, "What the fuck are you doing, Maggotbreath? The bell rang." Ahhhh, my friends are embracing it too, I can tell.

"I forgot my Psych book. I'll be right there," I said, shoving said psych book down under my spirals. Walking toward the lockers, I loitered til my friends had gone in and Walker had disappeared. Moving nonchalantly towards the library door, I picked up an empty soda can and dumped it in the trash, kinda just leaning over and scooping up the wadded piece of paper.

I know............that is so gayyyyyy! But what can I say? I am kinda smitten, using a word my geezer Granpa loves. Stuffing it in my pocket, I hurried to class, just sliding in under the bell.

Now, I wish I could tell you that I sat in my desk, stretched my long muscular legs out in front of me, tossed my perfect blonde hair out of my violet eyes and smiled at all the girls who stared at me just letting the dimples in my perfect face shine out. It would be great to tell you that my rippled abs clenched as I breathed in and my broad shoulders stretched my tight t-shirt tautly. All in all, a great visual.........sorry.

Actually, I sat in my desk and just existed, brown hair, brown eyes, one unlaced sneaker, navy blue baggies with a frayed pocket and a yellow Alien Zim t-shirt that had been washed with the colored things and now resembled a rather muzzy shade of orange. If you throw in my razor sharp wit and my ability to be vewy vewy quiet, you've got a perfect guy.......................ha!

I waited til Mr. Cannella started ranting about homework and the lack thereof before I looked right and left. Seeing no one looking at me, surprise! I slipped the crunched paper out of my pocket and smoothed it out on the desk top expecting to see the beginnings of a trig paper.

My hand stopped smoothing. My forehead wrinkled. This wasn't homework. This was some kind of pain.

Today is just like yesterday
Ugly and ripped
I don't think I can do tomorrow.
I hate
***his pen drew a long shaky line off the edge of the paper

I just stared at the wrinkled sheet. Walker wasn't doing homework. He was writing. Maybe it was for creative writing.........I ran through his schedule in my head >>I know, I obsess<< He wasn't taking any writing classes this semester. What was this? A poem for a girl? A what?

I raised my eyes and looked over toward where he sat across the room. He looked fine. The world felt fine. He was sitting, twirling his pen between his fingers like a baton and gazing in the general direction of Mr. Cannella. What was this?

I folded the paper carefully and slid it in my pocket again. This time, I knew what it said. I just didn't know what do think. It was none of my business, but well.

The bell finally rang so we could escape and I made it to the door approximately when Walker did, my books bumping his back.

"Oh," he flinched and pulled away quickly.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry. books.....sorry, Walker." I looked at him closely. My books had not hit him that hard..........unless he was already hurt.

"It's okay, Tommy. I wasn't lookin' where I was goin'. No prob." He headed off towards the lockers and I headed in the opposite direction.

He knew my name! I knew he knew I existed on planet Earth, but I wasn't sure he knew my name. He said 'Tommy' just like he knew it easy and didn't have to go searching for it. Funny how something so small can make my day.

The day swung on through, PE a total disaster with me having to be on the red shirt team against the jocks. Good God! Life gives you lemons and you can't even throw them at people. Unfair!

I thought about those lines all day. Why was his day ugly and ripped? What did he hate? I so hoped it was just some random thing he had written. I sure didn't want anyone ever feeling like I feel every day, especially not someone as perfect as Walker.

The days passed slowly, as days in small rural areas tend to do. When it's too far to go to the mall or the movies before curfew, the days can stretch endlessly. I worked on my birdhouses and rode my horse. I ate dinner promptly at 6 and was vewy vewy quiet. I didn't stop thinking about Walker and the little piece of crumbled up paper.

My friends and I decided to go drink beer out by the old swimming pool at Garmond's Slough. I can't really stand beer, but it feels so wrong and I jump at the chance to feel really wrong if it's not gonna hurt me. Nobody notices that I hold onto one can the whole time.

"Guess what I saw today?" Joey said as we sat on the hood of the truck, leaning up against the windshield.

"A giant anaconda eating Mr. Cannella," Mickey laughed.

I snorted, "Yeah, no more homework."

"No..........really, I saw Walker Owens coming out of Dr. Fred's office. He had a cast on his arm."

Now he had my attention. "What happened?"

"How the fuck would I know," he replied, "I said I saw him, not talked to him."

"Was he by himself?"

"Nah, some man was with him. He didn't look too happy either."

"Walker?" I was starting to hyperventilate.

"No, gumball, the man."

"What was Walker doing?" I tried to be casual and was failing utterly.

"This is the weird part," Joey said. "I swear he was crying."

Oh shit! "Was it his dad, you think?"

"Don't know. Hey, did you guys see today when Monica Drigens barfed her lunch all over the table?"

The talk went on around me, but I stopped keeping track. What if that was his dad? What happened? I wondered how he had broken his arm and why that man was mad. Mostly, I wondered why Walked was crying. God, Walker Owens, my perfect boy, crying. Maybe he wasn't quite so perfect after all.

I was up early the next day, dropped off the bluebird house Mrs. Ingles had asked for and got to school way early. I sat on the wall and waited. Sure enough, Walker had his arm in a cast with one of those blue slings. He looked really tired. His books were slipping.

Jumping off the wall, I caught up with him. "Walker, need some help?" I didn't wait but just took the books out of his hands. "I expected him to say, 'Thanks, but I've got it covered', but he didn't. He smiled a kinda half smile and just said, "Thanks, Tommy". He walked over to the bench by the library door and sat down heavily. I waited awkwardly, not knowing whether to just set the books down and go, or what.

The silence was deafening.

"How did you break your arm?"

He didn't answer for a few seconds and then heaved a sigh. "I fell."

"Off what?"

He looked as if he was searching for an answer, like he didn't really have one. He frowned and said, 'Down."

Now, I may be missing something here, but 'down' is not my idea of where, what or why.

"You okay, dude?" Right then, the 'gay, wanna hug you' thing kicked into gear. If anyone looked like they needed a hug, Walker did. I resisted, but it was dang difficult.

"Yeah, I'm cool."

He was so not cool, it was pathetic, but you can't force a guy to talk. "K," I said brilliantly. "If you need help today, tell me. It must hurt if you just broke it."

"Thanks, Tommy," he said again, and I swear, I heard tears in his voice.

I carried his books to Trig and then on to his art class. "I'll come back and help you at the bell," I said, smiling at him.

He kept looking at me with those eyes. I kept thinking:

Today is just like yesterday
Ugly and ripped
I don't think I can do tomorrow
I hate...........

What's so ugly and ripped that you can't do tomorrow?

I trundled his books for him most of the day and left him at the nurse's station about 1:00 when he said he was hurting. I was late getting to his Chem class at the end of the day and he was gone.

I worried all night. When does someone decide that the tomorrow they can't do is the tomorrow that they find themselves in? Was this his tomorrow? Was tomorrow? I wanted to call his house, but I didn't want to intrude. What if he did actually just fell 'down'? What if I was over reacting? I worked on my birdhouses and worried about Walker.

The next day, he didn't come to school. I waited on the bench by the library. I cut school at lunch and drove to the address listed in the student directory. I already knew where he lived, but I wanted to make sure. I must have sat in the truck for ten minutes. I decided it would be better to look like a dumbass fool than for anything to be wrong.

I knocked on the door, timidly, then louder. A herd of buffalo couldn't have made more noise. No one home. I started back toward the truck, then stopped when I heard my name.


Walker didn't look so good. He stepped out onto the front porch and pulled the door closed behind him. His sweats were stained and his hair greasy. He held the cast close to his chest and gripped it with his other hand.

"I...I just wanted to check on you," I said. "You didn't make it to school."

"I wasn't feelin' so good," he said softly.

"Can I help?" Is there anything more awful than wanting to help and knowing you can't?

"You've helped me a lot, Tommy, with the books and all."

"Yeah, the books," I repeated stupidly. "Well, I guess I better adios. I got stuff to do."

"Yeah," he said quietly. "Thanks for coming by." He just leaned there against the door, looking all not Walker. It broke my heart.



"If you need me, I mean, you need anything, call me."


I started to turn away, and then said carefully, "Nothing's so bad it can't be fixed."

"You sure about that?"

"Never been surer. My word on it." I smiled and hoped to God he wanted to see yet another tomorrow. I didn't know, but I had a really bad feeling.

Another night of worrying. I should have just come right out and asked. "What's wrong, Walker? Can I help?" But see, we can't do that, not in this hugfree world we live in. We pretend nothing's wrong and then feel really bad when the nothing turns into something and it's too late.

I heard the phone ringing and my mama murmur softly. A tap on my door...

"Tommy, phone, Honey. It's awfully late."

"Sorry, Mom." I took the handheld and waited til she shut the door.


I heard breathing and the sound of a soda can hit a table. "Tommy?"


"How did you know?"

I started to say "Know what?" like a totally idiot person, but I did know kinda what, so I just said, "I saw it in your eyes."

He sighed. "Can we talk?"

"Sure, I've got all night," I answered as I snuggled down into my covers.

He talked and I listened. That's what he needed, someone to talk to. Isn't that what we all need? He told me about his stepfather and the abuse. He told me that he couldn't leave because he couldn't walk away from his mother.

"Why does your stepfather hit you, Walker?"

"I don't know."

I knew he was lying. I could hear it in his voice. "If it would help you to tell me, I swear it's safe with me."

"I'm different, Tommy." Now I could hear the tears.

"Different how?"

"Just, you know, not like you."

"I don't understand that. You're way like me as far as I can see."

I waited while he thought about what he could say. I was getting a really strange flash of something. I just waited.


"Right here, Walker."

"I have these feelings, bad feelings, and I can't stop them anymore."

"Bad feelings about what?"

Another long silence. He must be terrified.

"Walker, don't be scared. Saying something outloud is the scariest part. Just say it and we'll deal, k?"

"We will?"

"Yeah, after 3 hours on the phone, I can safely say 'we'll deal'."

"Boys," he blurted out.

Oh My God!! Did he just say he had bad feelings about boys? Did that mean he liked boys or he wanted to kill boys?

"Bad feelings how?" I was now sitting straight up in the bed, clutching the phone for dear life. Please let it be like, not kill.

"I think about boys a lot."

Ohhhhhhhh !

"Tommy? Tommy? See, you told me to tell you and now you hate me."

"Hate you? Oh,, hate is not an operative word here." I was chattering but I couldn't stop.

"You don't hate me?"

"Walker, there is no way I'm gonna hate you."

"HE hates me."

"Your stepfather?"

"Yeah, he said he'd beat it out of me."

"How did he even know?"

"He found a magazine I had under my mattress."


"Tommy, are we still friends?" The tears were in his voice louder now.


Now, you're wondering why I don't tell him. Just blurt back, "You're gay. Wheeee! I'm gay too. We can be gay together."

All of a sudden, I choked. I didn't want it like this, over the phone in the dark. I had fantasized about Walker Owens, but never for one instant did I think he would ever be like me. It was a concept I had yet to grasp.

"We better get off. School in," I looked over at my clock, "Three hours."

"I don't know if I can..............," he started to say.

"You gonna let that creep win?"

"You're right. I'll be at school."

"Good deal and Walker...."

"Yeah, Tommy?"

"We're not so different, you and I ."

I hung up and lay there til the alarm went off, thinking about Walker and his stepfather, Spongebob and the little pineapple house, how people can be so mean and ignorant. How, somewhere between Kindergarten, where you loved everybody, and grown up, it became so easy to hate.

I was no closer to an answer when I got to school. All I knew was that I had a new friend, a really good new friend. A friend whose bones I would love to jump, but whose bones I would respect until such a time as he maybe liked my bones too.

I knew we could help each other. I knew once he knew for certain sure he wasn't alone, he could help himself.

I found myself humming the music for that 'queer' video with Spongebob and Winnie, Barney and Big Bird. The video that wants all people to not just tolerate each other, but to rejoice in the diversity of everyone; black/white/red/yellow/gay/straight/bi/searching/just any difference should become a non-difference. Thin people/chubs/ religion/whatever. None of these things are who you are. They just make of the many facets of you.

We are fam-i-ly
I've got all my sisters with me
We are fam-i-ly
Get up everybody and sing!

You know that, it's stuck in your head too.

It won't help those little Kindergarten kids; they like the black kid, the Asian kid, the shy kid and the kid that sucks his thumb all day. They like the future president, the future cross dresser, the future axe murderer. All that liking probably runs a far second to loving their mom and dad or their mom and mom or their dad and dad. They don't care as long as they're loved.

Spongebob's just asking for people to stop for a second, throw down the hate and sing!


Walker started helping me build birdhouses.

I let him climb up on the barn roof with me.

He figured it out up there. He kissed me.

Hahaha........that's sooooooooooooooo _______!

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