The Circle Squared - Book One: Squaring the Circle

by Smokr

Chapter 15

"State Street Sadie"

Thursday

A morning begun with the alarm clock, almost normal. It could have been almost normal if it weren't for the fear and horror that filled me, the sweat that covered me, the blankets twisted around my legs, the insistent coughing. They were slightly less racking and shorter in duration, producing thinner and less colorful phlegm, though.

The new normal, I thought with a wry grin that had nothing to do with humor.

At first my head was only filled with disjointed images of my death in the van. I knew I had dreamed it multiple times during the night, but I had no idea how I knew that. Maybe it was the fact that I was soaked, the sheets were soaked, I was shaking so badly that I could barely reset the alarm clock, and the fact that I felt as if I hadn't slept in days.

On the radio, the D.J. reminded me that Kilroy Was Here was coming out on Monday.

It hardly mattered. I wondered how I could possibly not care that the new Styx album was about to be available.

I knew that I had to get out of bed, but moving seemed so impossible. It took extreme effort to finally groan my way upright and put my feet on the floor.

I showered, my mind filled with thoughts of Jeff and his changing so much, my giving Tom that blow-job, what Jeff would do if he found out, how guilty I felt that I had even done that, his moving at the breakfast table, Kevin Corless and how long it would be before that became physical, the changes at the lunch table and in gym, who else and how many more were going to leave, civics class and Mr. B., trying to catch up in all the classes, the probable, impending end of the Circle, whatever was bothering Tom that had something to do with me, whether or not I should go to Rick's party, and the fact that I was seemingly going to have the nightmare every night for the rest of my life unless I turned myself into an emotionless zombie.

As I dried, nearly panting, I considered how weak I felt; tired, drained, gray, thin, and drawn out. Thoughts were slow and sluggish. Emotions were flat and dull. I felt almost as if I had taken a little yellow pill.

I dressed in old jeans and a Journey t-shirt, now panting, and back to thinking of the list of my horrors. That sense of deja-vu returned as I headed downstairs. I wondered what rut I was stuck in. I had another normal breakfast with the parents, keeping my mind on them and the conversation and faking a nearly cheerful attitude. I had new bandages applied. Once alone, I collapsed in relief before I later plodded upstairs to get my pack ready. Shortly later, I was standing in the early morning light, breathing hard, freezing with Tom, waiting for the bus.

It came to its usual hissing, whining stop in front of us, and the doors opened with the same old squealing and banging. Tom followed me on, as normal. Jeff looked up, nodded, and said, "Hey," as normal. I returned his nod and greeting as if everything were normal. As was the new normal, we hardly talked.

As soon as I saw him, the events of last weekend came howling back to mind. The guilt over throwing him out of my house weighed heavily on me again. I wrestled with the guilt of what I had later done with Tom, even as he sat next to me.

Why can't I just get past it? Like them. Both of them act like it never happened. They even told me I should. I tried. So why can't I? Why can't I just be normal?

Normal. There's that word again. Like anything to do with me can ever be normal. Hah. All I can do is try to get past it. Just forget it. Like... what?

For a moment there was something there in my mind, a something, a something that I couldn't remember. It slipped away even as I grasped at it. Soon I couldn't even be sure there had been anything.

Anything about what? What was I trying to think of? Wow. Lost my train of thought completely. Geeze. I was worried about Jeff and getting past the past. He wants to pretend what happened, didn't. So I should just forget it, stop reminding myself of it. I can try.

But then why don't he sit where he's supposed to? Maybe he will today? Let's see.

We arrived at school and walked in together as normal, went to our lockers as normal, and sat at the usual table as normal. Jeff took his new usual seat down the table from me.

I fought down thoughts of the fight with Jeff and tried to make eye contact with him at times. He seemed to avoid any such thing, as seemed the new normal. I tried not to let it bring me down, as was the new normal.

If he couldn't act normal, how could I?

I tried. I joined in conversation that I found interesting, and laughed even though I hardly felt like it. And I did notice something I had seen before, between Cooley and Marcus. He wasn't doing it constantly, but he was watching Cooley a lot, and seemed to react to everything that Marcus said and did. Marcus never seemed to notice. Or anyone else. Though Tom cocked his head at me while I was watching the two of them, as if to ask what I was watching. I shrugged.

Soon it was time to head to class. I hoped that it was going to be a normal day - whatever the new normal would be.

Physics was dull, tedious, and boring. I fell asleep despite trying to stay awake and catch up.

German was dull, tedious, and boring. I fell asleep despite trying to stay awake and catch up. Erich asked me if I was feeling okay as we left the class. I nodded.

Geometry. Rick asked me if I had found out if I could make it to his party. I told him I had forgotten to find out, but would let him know tomorrow, maybe. At one point, the teacher took a side tangent, and I found myself interested in the fact that it was impossible to use a compass and ruler to make a square of the same area as a circle, even though simple math could yield the dimensions. I wondered how many circles I was currently trying to square.

Computer class kept me busy, but barely awake. I couldn't get a program to run, and we were assigned yet another one to write. I was falling further behind.

I avoided Kevin in lunch by going straight to the table, saying I had homework I needed to get caught up on, and then spending the period in the library, where I promptly fell asleep despite trying to stay awake and catch up.

I dreaded heading into chemistry class, wondering what Mike and his girlfriend would have to say. I managed to stay awake, maybe because I had a napped so much and Erich kept using German to make horrible jokes about the experiment. At least I wasn't behind in the class anymore. Mike and his girlfriend studiously ignored us.

Literature class was dull, tedious, and boring, and I fell asleep. I didn't even try to stay awake or catch up.

In gym, I had no desire to scope out anyone. I didn't even try to watch. I fell asleep. I awoke to big Scott kicking my foot. As we waited to be dismissed, Erich was as nice as ever as he verified that the aisle I used in the locker room was even less populated than yesterday. I shrugged noncommittally and yawned.

English was... yeah, I fell asleep.

Civics crawled by at a pace that would make a two-legged turtle impatient. Despite all the naps during the day, I still felt tired and washed out, but managed to stay awake and think.

What came to mind most often was the ending of the Circle. Toby's assurance that they go 'round and 'round was no reassurance. The prospect of losing the tight-knit group of close friends was heart-rending. Even the situation with Jeff took a backseat to the fear and worry of losing the Circle for a while.

I was on my way to the library to spend the last period there doing homework, when I realized that the bulk of homework was in the computer class. Since I had no computer at home, the only way I was ever going to catch up was to spend some time on one at school.

After swapping books at my locker, I walked to where the computer classrooms were, on the first floor, next to the metal, wood, and auto shop classrooms. I felt more than a little conspicuous as I peeked into each computer classroom, only to find a class in session.

As I stood near the door to the last computer room, trying to stay upright on weak, wobbly legs, a guy I remembered from one class or another in the past walked by. He smiled a little and nodded at me.

"Hey, Raymond. Waiting to get on a computer?" he asked, slowing as he passed by.

I nodded and said, "Yeah."

"Gotta use the ones down here," he said, nodding further down the hall. "I'm goin, come on."

"Okay," I said, falling in beside him. "What ones?"

"There's a few they put in a room beside the shops when we complained we couldn't use any in the classrooms until after school," he explained as he led me to one of the previously unused small rooms in the industrial arts wing.

Along the walls inside the little room were more than a dozen of the older computers, most of which were being used. I recognized nearly everyone there, mostly members of the computers club, and received several greetings as we entered. The room had no windows, and the lighting was dim, which was perfect for using the older computers. Or, as we called them by then, the Trash-Eighty-Ones.

By the end of the period, I had gotten a program entered, only to find that I had errors to correct. I spent a few minutes making those corrections, wishing that my left hand worked better: it was taking much longer typing with only the index finger on that hand. I figured if I hadn't injured it, I might be less than half as behind as I was. I also figured that if I used the lab again next week, maybe even until the bus came, I could be caught up, and maybe be ready for mid-terms. I was almost feeling fairly good about that when the bell rang. I said goodbye to the guys as we left. Most were only leaving to go work on a newer computer in one of the other rooms.

I heard Jeff's laugh. It caught me completely off my guard, literally freezing me in place. I heard his voice. I crept back toward the door, listening intently. It was him, talking to at least two others that I didn't recognize. I peeked around the door frame.

He was standing in the hall with a pair jocks, both wearing baseball patches on their team jackets, all of them laughing. I was stunned to see Jeff talking to them. He wasn't a jock, had never been, and as far as I knew didn't even talk to any. But there he was, seemingly having a good time with them.

I hid behind the open door, peeking out the glass strip that served as a window. It formed a small, triangular space that was very dark in the already dim room. Unless someone closed the door, and that was unlikely, I was all but invisible. Two more jocks arrived, and the five of them stood talking in the hallway not far from me, directly outside the doors to the auto shops. I knew Sean Brady, everyone did, but the others were just faceless jocks to me. I could hear almost everything they all said.

"I know. Be cool. Just have to do what Coach Bradley said. You can't hang around with someone like that and be trusted on the team," Sean said.

"Yeah, bad influence and all that. Stuff a ball player shouldn't be part of," another jock said.

"How we gonna trust ya?" asked another.

"No shit. Can't trust you at all if you do that stuff. Not on the field where's it's important, or the locker room or showers. Ya know?" Sean again.

"Yeah, it's just, it ain't fair," Jeff said.

"Life aint fair. Ya gotta pick if you're gonna stick hangin' around with who ya are or play ball. Ya can't do both."

"Well, we gotta get to it," one of them said.

"Yeah," Jeff said. "See you guys tomorrow."

"When ya gonna start stayin' after with us?" Sean asked him.

"Next week. Gotta take care of loose ends and stuff first. Cover my tracks," he said with a laugh.

I listened as they said their byes and their voices diminished. I didn't move. I tried to think, but I kept hearing parts of their conversation over and over.

You can't hang around with someone like that and be trusted on the team. Bad influence. Stuff a ball player shouldn't be part of. If you're one of them how are we gonna trust you? Not on the field where's it's important or the locker room or showers. Pick if you're gonna stick with who ya are or play ball.

I stood in that room, behind the door, thinking, shaking inside.

Jeff? Ball? I know he loves baseball, but the team? And he's even thinking about it if he has to stop hanging around with me first? The jocks instead of me?

They didn't say anything about people, or them, just, " ... someone like that."

Instead of, "the fag."

I felt as if I had already been abandoned. I saw it as clear that he was going to do so to me. He hadn't said word one to me about the baseball team. Nothing.

Gotta tie up some loose ends first. Cover my tracks.

Next week.

So, next week Jeff's gonna dump me for the team? I though in horror. I'm a fucking loose end? So I guess this is the something he wanted to talk about Saturday, then. No wonder he didn't wanna talk about it. No wonder he seemed upset he slipped and even mentioned it.

I felt the too-familiar tug in my chest and face, the imminent moisture in my eyes.

No fucking way am I gonna fuckin' cry. I gotta ride the fuckin' bus with him and Tom and I'm not gonna look like a fucking pussy faggot in school or on the bus. Especially not in front of them.

I reached for the anger and teased it, poking it with a pointed stick until it was roaring and pawing at the bars of its cage.

Fuck him and his surprise, damn it. I know he's not gonna stand up about being gay anyway, but I'm not gonna make it easy for his ass. That's it! I'll make it so fucking hard for him to do, he won't be able to! Or he'll feel like fucking shit for doin' it! I'll make Saturday night and Sunday morning fucking rock! It'll be the best time together yet, and he'll regret having to tell me he can't be with me anymore.

I really don't need him. Everyone knows I'm gay. If anyone else is, they'll start talking to me. Right? There's always Puppy Dog. So I got a chance to have somebody. He'll be stuck actin' the straight baseball player and won't be able to have anyone. So fuck him.

I found myself sitting with my back against the wall, in the darkness behind the still open door. I pulled myself together, meditated a moment to get myself under control, and with only a few minutes left before our bus left, I sneaked out from behind the door to find the room empty. Thankfully no one had entered the little room, or I hadn't noticed and they had left.

No longer in danger of crying in front of anyone, especially Jeff or Tom, I got my books and walked out of the little room into the hall.

Quite a few kids were walking through it considering the time of day. Some even gave me brief, shocked, horrified looks before looking away. I was already hurting so much deep inside that their looks did little to me. I let the anger have control as I walked quickly toward my locker, my breath already coming in short, almost ragged gasps.

I held my anger, not wanting to give any tears any chance while at school, especially in front of Tom, and absolutely not in front of Jeff. I had no idea how I was going to pretend that I hadn't heard what I had. I hoped that the conversation would stay on stupid things and I could ignore what I had heard. Pretend it hadn't happened, I marveled.

I was panting as I neared my locker. Tom and Jeff were waiting, obviously keeping their eyes peeled for sight of me; as I expected. I nodded, trying to act normal enough that they wouldn't ask any questions, while maintaining my inner anger to stave off the hurt and tears.

I swapped books, and we made the usual small talk as we waited for our bus. I made sure everything seemed nice and normal. I made plans to make the weekend with Jeff the best yet. I even considered letting Jeff fuck me. I knew it would hurt, but I knew it would also make him feel worse about telling me to get lost. I hoped, anyway. I wondered if it would keep him from choosing the ball team over me.

I began to wonder why I wanted to fight for Jeff again.

I've fought for him before so many times, how come I'm not fucking tired of it? I mean, how many times do I have to? And how many times more if I keep him? Forever?

I mean, it was stupid the way he acted. Just because Tom came in he didn't have to act paranoid and worried, and ruin our good time. Geeze. What about the way he is in school now? Fucking moved his seat at the breakfast table to be farther away from me. We hardly say anything while we stand around and wait for the bus. Surprised he still hangs around where he gets seen with me.

Eventually we boarded our bus. We didn't say much, as was the new normal. Every time that Jeff said anything, I only wanted to scream at him. I had to constantly fight the scowl that wanted to form at his every word. How dare he sit there and try to talk to me when he was planning to drop me like a rotten fruit? When Tom's and my stop came up, Jeff said, "Laters," like normal. I heard Tom reply, but I not only didn't want to, I wanted to tell him to fuck off.

I didn't want Tom to follow me home, but I knew he was going to, and he did. I knew I could try to ask him not to, but I knew he knew that I was in a foul mood, and that meant he wasn't going to leave me alone until he had cheered me up, or at least mellowed me out, or at the very least, found out why.

Sometimes having a knight around was a royal pain in the ass.

I let Tom get me very stoned, and let him believe he had cheered me up. He did, to some degree anyway. I had no ability to stop him. He knew how to manipulate me and was good at it. When he left for dinner, I was able to get through my own as if everything were normal.

During dinner, I was reminded of the doctor's appointment tomorrow, the cab, and the usual things. I even whined and complained at the points I thought I would be expected to.

Tom returned and we smoked, played, and joked around. By the time he had left he was convinced I was in a better mood. It had taken far more energy than I had expected to convince him so. Maintaining an outward good mood, while inside feeling like curling into a fetal position and crying myself to sleep, took a lot of effort. Especially to fool Tom.

I plodded downstairs later to get the bandages changed before my parents went to bed. That done, and the night pills taken, and reminded again of the doctor's appointment and all the related points, I returned the tray to the kitchen myself.

I stood there over the counter, looking at the bottle of little yellow pills. The bottle of sleeping pills was next to it. I wondered if it was enough to make sure that I stayed on the other side, with Toby - for good.

I was sure it was.

I knew I could take two sleeping pills and get another visit with Toby, who would be irate at the least. My plan to visit him again loomed large: If, after taking at least one little yellow pill, I was sure that I really felt emotions while it was happening, I would have an answer to that long pending question of just whether or not he was real or in my head.

I wondered whether, if I took three sleeping pills, I would get a longer visit. Maybe long enough to calm him down and enjoy the rest of the time we would have. I wondered how long I would have with four. Or six. Or, if I took-

Mom walked in, smiling.

"Thought you went to bed."

"Goin'," I said, maybe a bit too quickly.

"Need a little help?" she asked, obviously noting what bottles I was holding.

I had no idea that I was going to say it, only that I suddenly felt that I needed to say something so that she wouldn't get any kind of idea of what I had just been thinking.

"Found out today some guys moved out of my row of lockers in gym class."

A wink of my eye and a flinch of my hand. I almost dropped a bottle.

Why the fuck did I say that? Oh my gawd! Now I'm gonna get a lecture and shit, and she's gonna be worried about it. Dumb-fucking-asshole!

"Oh? That doesn't seem right. Want me to call the principal or someone?"

What?!

"Oh, of course not," she said, seeing me turn with an expression of horror etched across my face. "I guess I wouldn't, either. But, you okay?"

She put her glass in the washer and then walked over to me, putting an arm across my shoulders.

"Yeah. Sure. Expected, I guess."

"Honey, don't let it bother you. I hear you still have a lot of friends at school. So don't let a few jerks get you down. You hear me?"

"Yeah, sure," I said, trying not to drop even lower on the emotional scale.

She looked as if she were going to kiss the top of my head or pat me there. Instead, she gave me a little hug across my shoulder and turned to leave.

Then exactly what she had said reached out and slapped me. My right eye and hand did their little dance, this time quite energetically. The anger I had stoked earlier in the little computer lab, and for the bus ride, purred in frustrated anticipation from behind the bars.

"You hear what?" I said loudly, anger making my voice turn even rougher than the new normal.

"What?" she asked innocently, turning back.

"You said you heard I still had friends since I went back. Where'd you hear anything about me at school from?"

School was the only place that was away from my parents, and I liked keeping it that way. But now it seemed that even that was changing.

"I told you, honey. Judith's son is in your class. Mennard. His name is Brandon. You said you didn't know him, before."

She brushed the top of my head, smoothing my hair. It always calmed me, and only then did I realize for the first time that she probably knew that fact. I felt manipulated. And spied upon. This time I didn't open the gate, the anger got out on its own.

I jerked away from her and her manipulative touch. I glared angrily at her before I stormed through the swinging kitchen door. I would have yelled and screamed at her, but I didn't know exactly what words to use. I'd hardly ever fought with either of my parents, so I had little experience to draw from.

"Alex, honey, what's the matter?" she asked, following me.

At the bottom of the stairs she got hold of my arm and held on tightly, pulling me to face her.

"Alex Raymond, don't you walk away from me like that," she said with little anger, more surprise. "If something's bothering you so much I need to know about it. Now what's the matter?"

I was breathing fast, my fists clenched so tightly that the fingers on my left hand throbbed in complaint. I tried to put it into words, but there weren't any. It was just raw emotions, and it wasn't possible to describe them.

"Is it the kids in gym class moving? Is that all that's bothering you?"

I didn't think about what she meant by "all." I should have known she was asking if that was the only thing or not, but instead, I took the word as if she were belittling the fact that those guys had moved away from the faggot.

"All? That's all? Isn't that fucking enough?" I yelled, trying to pull away from her grip.

"Alex, listen to me!" she said angrily.

Her anger fed my own, and I found myself screaming at her.

"Stop spying on me! Leave me the hell alone!"

I stormed up the stairs, throwing a glance downward at the first turning to make sure that she wasn't following me. She wasn't, was only standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at me, hurt and shocked. I completed my march up the stairs and then threw myself onto my bed. I had never before felt so betrayed or so manipulated by her, let alone both at the same time. I was furious, hurt, and disappointed. She had made me angry, and feel as if I were a little child. I felt as if she had belittled my emotions and concerns, mocked them.

I was panting from the emotions as well as the upward march. I needed a joint, but was afraid of starting a coughing fit and then one of those horrible episodes of breathlessness and suffocation. Instead of getting up and getting stoned, I sat still and stewed.

"Don't she know what it's like?" I asked aloud.

Fuck. How can she? She not gay. I am. I'm the fucking queer. I'm the one with all the problems. I'm the one who's gotta go to that school everyday and deal with all the shit I get. Not her!

"Fuck!" I said loudly, sitting up.

Only when I went to wipe at my damp eyes did I realize that I still had both bottles of pills tightly clenched in my fists.

Take 'em. Take 'em all. Make it all end! Part of my mind thought. Get it all over with. Go be with Toby and leave all this bullshit behind forever.

Forever? Another part of me thought. No. I'd be back. And doing that would cause a scar on my next life. I wouldn't leave anything behind, I'd carry it with me, forever.

I knew that I needed a distraction. It was too early for anything decent on television, and I wasn't in the mood for music. I turned the television on so it would be on when the PBS comedies started, and then sat at my desk. The news was on, and I didn't pay it any attention as I sat the bottles on my desk and stared at them.

The news began a story about the Environmental Protection Agency declaring the entire town of Times Beach, Missouri a disaster area. They were going to evacuate it because of all the dioxins contaminating it. The EPA was going to buy the entire town. It wasn't far from where my cousin Roger lived.

And there had been a problem at a nuclear power plant in New Jersey. An emergency shutdown test had gone wrong and the technicians had to handle it manually. Officials said no dangerous levels of radiation were released. I wasn't much comforted.

Then a story about the still erupting volcano in Hawaii.

I sat at my desk, the bottles squarely in front of me, wiping at my eyes.

So many fucking problems, I lamented.

Jeff.

Maybe I should just not even try. Why bother? It's so much trouble. So complicated.

When it should be so easy.

Why's it got to be so hard for him? Even just with Tom around? I mean, come on! Can I stand to wait on him that long? Do I even want to?

If you try and it don't matter, at least ya tried. If ya try and it matters, it matters. Another circle I'll never square?

If I make Jeff so happy this weekend that he chooses me over baseball, is that the right thing? If I let him fuck me just to try to keep him, won't I have to let him again if I do get to keep him? Do I even really want to let him even once? It's gotta hurt. Even if we take all night stretching me, it's gonna hurt. So why does he even want to, then? He knows it's gotta hurt. It's so thick. And I hardly ever do a single finger on myself. Rarely. Take Jeff's? Gotta be three fingers at least, if not more like all four. Now that's trying to square a circle! No thanks!

OUCH!

Would he fuck me, knowing that he was going to tie up the loose end soon? Loose end. Hah! If I let him fuck me, I really would be the loose end! I'd have a loose end for the rest of my life!

I had no desire to laugh at the pun.

Do I want him that bad? Would I have let Tom if he was that big? Toby?

It might be better to be alone than have to deal with Jeff. Maybe I should try to find out who Puppy Dog is. If someone is looking at me in that way, maybe it's somebody I could like enough?

Enough for what? Love? A relationship? Being together, even when others know? Or just sex? Just plain old sex. No love, just sex. What would be better? Depend on who, wouldn't it?

I don't know!

Why not Jeff? And who the fuck is Puppy Dog?

It was getting late, yet I wasn't ready for bed. I stared at the two bottles of pills as I thought how it was another night without any desire to pleasure myself. I thought of how that had become a new normal, and I wondered if I was going to lose all of my sex drive before the school year was out.

I eyed the pill bottles. I rolled and lit a merta joint. With each hit, I pondered and scribbled in my diary. I saw there were only five pages left, and wondered how to finish this one.

Tomorrow is one month after my birthday. One month since the party with my closest friends and mom and dad and the grands. Got the van. Partied in it. All those good times. Less than a month since the bigger party with other friends too. Then the toga party at Tim's basement. That was so hot! Even without that part it was the best party I ever been to let alone had. I gave Tom his nickname and he became my Knight In White Linen. And then Jeff says he's gay too. And then we spent the night talking together. Funny how everybody left us alone. Ha! Planned.
Probably Tom. Need to ask him that. My Knight in white Linen struck again I'm sure.
Three weeks since the van fire and I died. Saved and brought back to life by my Knight in White Linen. The burns are still sore and not healed yet. Still cough up stuff sometimes. Temple cut is healing and stitches starting to dissolve. Get headaches still and it itches like a son-of-a-bitch sometimes. Still weak. Lost a lot of weight. Still get tired a lot.
Seems like I get more tired more easily instead of better. Maybe ask doc tomorrow about that. Shouldn't I be getting better? Not maybe worse?
I yelled at mom today. No good reason to. I was angry at Jeff and she tried to be nice. I feel like an asshole. I just don't like that she can find out stuff about me at school. Not fair. No privacy. Sigh


The big news - I heard Jeff talking to some jocks today at school. He didn't see me but I heard him tell them that he was going to drop me. Fucking hate sports and now Jeff wants to be a jock. He looks more like one now anyway. I want it all or nothing with him. Is it going to have to be nothing? Am I just a loose end he has to tie up? They didn't like that he hangs around with somebody like me. LIKE ME! Ha. Jeff's gay too, but they got no idea. I should let the whole school know he is. See if he gets on the team then. HA! I won't though. I'm too much of a pussy. I'm going to make him want to choose me this weekend. I'm going to make it so fun and the sex so good that he will forget baseball and stay with me instead. I got so many ideas!
I don't understand why he would even think about baseball over me though. He said he loves me. Don't he? I do him.

LOVE IS A GRAVE MENTAL DISEASE " PLATO


News sucks. Whole towns turning to poisoned wastelands. Major cities threatened by nuclear meltdowns. A volcano in Hawaii still erupting after starting after New Years Day.

But those are remote and hardly matter. I got enough right here to bother with.
There are guys moving out of my gym aisle and I ain't even changing yet. Wonder who? How many? Will I be all alone in my own aisle? Would that suck? Probably. Make me stand out even more. Fuck.
Civics teacher being an asshole, hates me now because I'm gay. No, don't hate me, just don't trust or respect me now. What an asshat.
Got lots of catching up to do still in school. Not as far behind as I was afraid I was going to be, but not up to par yet in German for sure. Missed a lot of stuff in English. Still working to feel caught up. Missed everything on comas and semicolons and colons in English. That stuff is fucking the hardest.

Tom. His constant need to watch out for me, he no longer confides everything in me, the continuing tension between us even though we're done with that part of our friendship, and he keeps secrets from me now.


Kevin Corless changed from semi-friend to evil bastard. Think he's going to be next Charlie Derek. Or Mike Walters. Boy did I stand up to him in chemistry yesterday! I called him a drooling sloped-foreheaded knuckle dragging neanderthal! I thought he was going to explode!
But I kept yelling at him with a soft voice and he ended up leaving class with his tail tucked between his legs.
Felt good sort of.
The looks and laughs I get around the halls in school now.
At least the guys at the breakfast and lunch tables didn't abandon me. Not all of them anyway.
The end of The Circle!!!
The end of those times with sexy red-headed Eric, funny Brent, and cute Ryan who says he likes guys and girls. And all the fun and good times with them and Tom and Jeff and Todd.
I'm trying to hold onto all of it, and I can't. It's like the thing in geometry class, about squaring a circle. It's impossible.
All of it gone. Just like Toby.
Damn and fuck it all!!!

I threw the pen down. One last empty page, but I had another crushing headache centered behind the injured temple.

I really need some sleep. I'm dropping off in classes. The dream isn't just going to go away. I need the little white to sleep, and the little yellow, or two, to keep the dream away. I should take 'em. Maybe take an extra sleeper or two, maybe see Toby. Maybe. Piss him off, though. He said not to. He said I'd probably see him again, anyway. I just had to wait.

I could take 'em all. What I got to look forward to? Radioactively poisoned stretches of dioxin-tainted wastelands? Trying to get along with Jeff well enough that he'll even talk to me in public and not be in a panic? He's gonna dump me real soon and go play fucking baseball. Me and Tom getting farther away from each other? Losing my two closest friends and all the time we spend together? No car. No boyfriend. No close friends to do things with. Alone all the time. Nothin' to do and no way to get there.

The phrase immediately reminded me that Kilroy Was Here would be on store shelves Monday morning, and I had no way to get there. Something I had been looking forward to for so long was out of reach. Again.

The pills were still there in front of me. Toby had warned me not to do so, that if I did, he wouldn't let me come to him again. But I needed to see him. He was the only thing that made sense, and the only thing that had been simple, easy, uncomplicated, joyous, and wonderful, all that, and more.

I considered again taking all of them. I opened both bottles.

Even if it's just one more time, even if he won't talk to me, I can get one answer, at least. I need to see him. I have to know at least this one thing.

I readied the journal and then got into clean briefs and sweatpants. I got a glass of water and took it to the desk with me, weaving with exhaustion " both physical and emotional " and with the potent effects of half a merta joint.

At least this way, I'll get one more time with Toby, and I'll know the truth, I thought.

I sat my desk and began taking pills, chewing them, using the water to wash them down. I had always been able to take pills without something to drink, but not that time, not that way, not that many.

I lit the rest of the merta joint and filled in the last page of the journal.

I'm going to go see Toby.
How perfect is it that I fill up the last page in this journal with these last thoughts before I do this?
Life is so hard. You try and try, and all you get is more of what you don't want. Life is learning, and trying. Hurting and loving. Laughing and crying. I fear life, I don't fear death. How can I? I know what lies there.
No Perdition. No Purgatory. They were made up to scare the faithful into dutiful submission, and to increase alms to the church. When your time was done here, if you had earned it, you would gain a life there. Peace, joy, love, happiness. Tranquility of a scale we can't comprehend from our miserable lives here. If you hadn't earned it, you got sent back, to try again, you don't just end.

I'm already sure we're more than our bodies. They're just incubators for what else we are. We go through bodies over and over. Live lives again and again. So what do I have to fear from death? Some see it as the end. We fear death because we don't know what to expect. It's the unknown. But I know it.
Soon I'll know the truth of if I 'm dreaming Toby, or making him up in my head, or if he's real.

I closed the now filled journal, hardly able to think. I put the journal in my old blue footlocker, with the rest of them. With the rest of my life. I closed it gently.

I weaved my way to my bed, placed my glasses on the table carefully, laid down slowly, composed myself comfortably, closed my eyes, and waited. I bobbed on an invisible current, or was swept along beneath the surface. I was washed away.

I softly sang, "Don't Let It End."

I smiled.

For the first time in a very long time, I wasn't plagued by my own thoughts as I waited for the darkness. I was tired enough that there was little to no waiting. The chewed pills were working quickly, the powerful merta pushing me under. And with the beautiful song in my mind, there was no time or room for my thoughts and emotions to rise and torture me. For the first time in a long time, I didn't worry about having the nightmare.



HAEC CLAUSULA

PARS UNUM

"PARADISUS THEATRUM"
Ѻ

Here Concludes

Part One

"Paradise Theater"
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