by Victor Thomas

Chapter 8

I was assigned to room with Mark, which was great as far as I was concerned. I could've been assigned to room with Todd, Ashton, or one of his Nazi friends. Now that would've been a real riot.

After supper, him and I settled in and watched some TV. He pulled off his shirt and made himself comfortable. His torso rippled with hard muscle. He was strong. I was glad he was on my side. He noticed me looking at him, but instead of freaking out and being all worried over whether or not I was checking him out, he asked me something that surprised me.

"Scott, how do you think I look? I mean, you're attracted to guys and all that. What do you think of me? What do you think the girls think?"

"Well," I paused, feeling a little awkward. "Honestly, I think you're hot. You've got a great body, cool hair, and you're totally good looking. You're damned nice, too, and you're not stuck on yourself, and that makes you extremely attractive. I'm sure the girls see you the same way."

"Thanks," he said.

I could tell he really meant it. It was wonderful to have someone who could be so comfortable around me. He didn't give a damn that I was gay, any more than he cared what TV show I liked best. My sexual orientation was just another part of me. He was my friend and he accepted me as I was, all of me.

"Listen, Mark… thanks for sticking up for me back there," I said. "I don't have many friends these days."

"Don't mention it, Scott. Those faggots…" He stopped in mid-sentence. He looked at me. Pain and embarrassment were etched on his face. "I'm sorry, Scott, I didn't mean…"

"Mark, I understand. Everyone uses that term without thinking. Hell, even I have. I can't say I like it, or that it doesn't hurt sometimes, but it's just the way it is."

"I'm sorry, man," he said, then picked up where he left off. "Anyway, those bastards shouldn't be allowed to get away with that shit. When Ashton started talking shit, I just couldn't take it anymore. You shouldn't have to put up with that. You aren't hurting anyone, and what you do is nobody's business but your own."

"I do appreciate what you did," I said. "It really means a lot to me. I won't forget it."

"You're gonna embarrass me if you keep talking like this," he laughed.

"Okay, I'll stop. But thanks."

"Stop it!"

It was great to joke around with another guy without him acting like I was checking him out or trying to get into his pants. With Mark, I could just be me.

"Scott," he said slowly. "When did you… did you first know? Know you were attracted to guys, I mean."

I thought for a few moments.

"It's hard to say, really," I replied. "I mean, it's been pretty definite for a couple of years, but I'm not sure when I really knew. I'm sure I've always been attracted to other guys, but I'm not sure when I realized it. I mean, all guys admire other guys to some extent. It's hard to say when I figured out that my feelings went farther, you know. Maybe when I was eleven or twelve. Maybe earlier than that."

"It must be really tough for you," he said.

I sighed.

"You have no idea! Even before all this happened, it was so difficult. I mean, I just felt so different from everyone else, you know. I mean, I was like all the other guys, but at the same time, I wasn't. Ah, it's just too hard to explain. You'd have to experience it to understand."

He looked thoughtful. I could tell something else was on his mind.

"Scott, if a guy did something with another guy, just once, would that make him gay?"

I could tell he was really concerned.

"What do you mean?"

He hesitated.

"Promise me you won't tell anyone about this, okay. Not even Brian."

"I promise," I said.

The room was silent. It was a long time before he spoke. It was clear that he was having great difficulty forcing the words out.

"A couple of years ago… one of my friends was over and we were wrestling around. We both got kind of excited, if you know what I mean, and he noticed my shorts were kind of… bulged out, you know."


He cleared his throat nervously.

"Well, he dared me to take it out and show it to him. It was kind of exciting, forbidden… so I said okay, if he'd pull his out too. We did it. He reached over and well… you know."

I nodded.

"Well," he paused of a moment. "I did the same to him until we both… you know. We did it together. So, does that mean I'm gay?"

"Did you guys do anything else, then or later?" I asked.


"You ever done anything with any other guy?"


"Ever think about it, or dream about it?"

He shook his head.

"Nope, it was just a one-time thing. It just kind of… happened. It felt good, so we did it. I liked it."

I chuckled.

"Mark, you're not gay, believe me. You just experimented with another guy. I think a lot of guys do that, although most of them probably wouldn't admit it. If you were really gay, you'd be thinking about doing stuff with guys all the time. Besides, I happen to know you're girl crazy. I don't think you could get any further from being gay."

He smiled.

"I've always wondered. I mean, I've never thought I was gay, but still… thanks, Scott."

He seemed completely relieved.

I was glad to be able to help him out, but what passed between us wounded me a bit. Why did he have to be so worried about whether or not he was gay? It was like being gay was some kind of disease or something, and he was afraid he'd caught it. He was far more accepting than others, but the fear of it was still there. I pulled my mind away from being hurt. He was a good friend, one of a rare few, and no one was perfect. I sure as hell wasn't.

He looked at his watch, then got up and started to undress. He didn't seem at all concerned about undressing in front of me.

"I think I'm going to bed," he said. "It's been a long day and that was a tough game. I'll see you tomorrow morning, Scott."

"Good night, Mark, and thanks again."

I decided I should probably go to sleep as well. Tomorrow was no doubt going to be as rough as today was, on the bus ride home. I needed all the rest I could get.

I awoke sometime in the early hours of the morning. Mark was sleeping peacefully in the other bed.

The alarm clock read 3:17 a.m. I quickly got up and went to the window. I drew back the curtain and looked out into the cold blue of the morning. I wished that I could just run away. I'd seriously thought about it a few times. The idea was frightening, but could it be any worse than my life now.

It was less than a year before I'd be eighteen and could graduate from high school. Could I hold out that long? Every day was filled with torment, and there was no escape from it. I felt like I was in some kind of hopeless nightmare, from which there was no way out.

I thought of Mark, Ryan, and a few others, especially Mark. He was always there for me. They gave me hope. Their presence meant that I wasn't totally alone in the world, that it wasn't just me against everyone else. I really did have a few friends, and Mark and Ryan were foremost among them.

I thought of my other friends. They weren't there for me like Mark and Ryan, but they stood by me in their way. At least they spoke to me and ate with me, and they didn't treat me as if I was a monster. Their support might be quiet and unobtrusive, but I appreciated it none the less. Without their support, I really don't think I could've made it this far.

I thought of Todd, my former best friend, and all those who hated me so, all the boys that called me a fag. There were so many of them. For every friend there were ten enemies. I couldn't stand being so hated. It tore into me. I sometimes felt like I just couldn't stand it for a moment longer.

I feared what Monday morning would bring. Would I be spit on? Would I get beat up? I already knew I'd be taunted, harassed, and called names. That was my life now. Those things were going to happen, just as surely as the sun would rise. What else did the future have in store for me? I shuddered when I began to think about it.

I tried to sleep but my thoughts were too painful. I tossed and turned before I finally managed to fall asleep. God had mercy on me, and I dreamed no dreams.

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