I try to forget what happened after that. I don’t like to admit it, although not a day goes past where I don’t think about it, but it was my fault. As much as I like to think I was a child and it wasn’t, deep down I know I can’t deny my involvement. My dad exploded into anger. Lighting the room up with the red from his eyes. He grew even taller over me, or I shrank. The whole room seemed to twist and contort itself as he stepped back into the centre and screamed.
“I don’t want you hanging around with him anymore. I’ll find out if you are. Trust me, don’t cross me on this. I will find out. You won’t speak to him again.”
I didn’t ask why or tell him that at school they tell us not to treat people any different regardless of sexuality. I didn’t ask him to explain himself. I wish I did, but I was small. God, I don’t think I could even do it now, and I’m an adult. I think.
He slammed the door shut as he left the room and stomped to his own room, slamming that door as well. I lay, shivering with fear, for the rest of the night. I don’t think I slept at all. My eyes never shut, glued on the door. Hoping it wouldn’t open again. Maybe Dad would feel better in the morning. I doubted it.
The alarm went off, and I turned over to tap the button. I didn’t need to press snooze. There was no way I was falling asleep again that day.
Everything was off that day. Nothing felt right. The sun was stuck behind clouds, the wind picked up and ripped through the streets. I almost missed the bus and had to run most of the way. Tim was waiting for me, stretching his neck out with an anxious look on his face. A smile grew on his face when he caught my eye, but I didn’t return it. We got on the bus in silence and didn’t say a word until we got there.
“So, what’s up man?” He asked.
“Nothing, I’m good. Just tired.”
“Come on, it’s because of last night isn’t it. I knew you’d get weird. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry man. Let’s just forget about it.”
“No, it’s not that. Honestly.” I don’t think he believed me.
“Leave it. I don’t wanna talk about it. Let’s just get to class.”
He picked up the pace and left me behind. I breathed heavily and let the ocean of students carry me to class. I wished I could just talk to him. Tell him about Dad, but it wasn’t that easy.
The rest of the day was pretty much as awkward as the morning. Tim didn’t come outside at break time, I never saw him and then at lunch he said he was going to the library to finish some homework. It felt crap. Once the final bell rang, I walked to the bus stop knowing he had to be there, but expecting him to ignore me. Instead his mood had changed, we got on together and chatted on the way back. It was a little awkward at first, but soon enough things returned to normal. We didn’t mention the elephant, just let it linger in the background.
I thought that would be the end of it. No one would mention it again and it would just disappear. Most things worked like that. Most things. Mum didn’t, but this wasn’t like that. Tim was my best friend. I should have known better. I saw my dad before the bus stopped. His eyes were already full of fire, his mouth trembling. His hands rolled into tight fists and shaking. I think everything one the bus saw him. Silence took over. It seemed like the world grew darker and every other adult waiting for their child disappeared. All the other people on the bus faded and it was just me and dad looking at each other through the window.
I didn’t want to leave the bus, but I didn’t have a choice. My whole body went to jelly and I had to fight not to flop to the floor.
“Come on, you got to leave,” Tim whispered to me.
“I know, he seems mad. Better to deal with it straight away. You know what he’s like.”
“Please stop talking.”
“Christopher get off that bus and get out here now,” Dad roared, echoing through the bus.
If the bus wasn’t silent before it was then. Crap. My whole body shook and I had to hold back tears. I’d never seen him like this before.
“Get away from that faggot and get out here.”
“What? Did you tell him?” Tim asked.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t think it would be a big thing.”
I did know, how couldn’t I have known. He may not have ever been outwardly homophobic, but the signs were there. He hated most people, this was no surprise.
The whole bus was staring at my Dad, holding back laughter. A couple of heads slowly turned towards Tim. My eyes darted between everyone.
“Hey, can you leave the language at home, please?” The driver asked, “There are kids on board.”
“I’m only here to get my kid, I’ll leave once he gets off the bus.”
“I can’t believe you told him,” Tim whispered.
I winced at the words, not wanting to admit that I’d done it. That I was stupid to believe that anything else would have come from this. That the excuse of being a child doesn’t always work. That other people wouldn’t find out, if not like this then some other way. I was stupid, and I knew better.
I stood up slowly, accepting my fate and walked towards the front of the bus, every step echoing throughout me. The heads of every student followed me along the narrow passage, their legs automatically shuffled into the seats, not to even touch me. The birds chirping outside joined my echoing steps.
“Come on, boy. We’re going home.”
Dad grabbed my wrist and led me away from the bus. A couple of other parents gave me sympathetic looks, but they didn’t say anything. Didn’t do anything and would never mention it again.
“I told you not to hang around him again.”
“It’s no big deal, we were sitting next to each other on the bus. I barely spoke to him all day.”
“No big deal, you stupid dumbass. It’s not natural being like that. He’ll have you thinking your queer before you know it.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“It is, don’t believe what they tell you in school. It is how it works.”
He dragged me all the way home, occasionally calling me something obscene under his breath or right to my face. I couldn’t tell if he thought I was answering back, it seemed like he was having an argument with me, making up my responses.
When we got back home he threw me through the front door and slammed it shut behind him. He then grabbed my shoulder and threw me at the stairs. I bounced off the steps and fell to the floor. I thought he was going to take his belt off and smack me like he used to. I could almost hear Mum telling him not to. Her dead screams echoed in my mind.
“That’s the last time you see him, you hear me? No son of mine will hang around with some freak like that.”
“He’s not a freak.”
“Don’t test me boy. His Dad can let him do whatever he wants, but I will not let my Son degrade himself like that.”
I didn’t answer him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. That I didn’t want to get beaten. It wasn’t worth it. Through gritted teeth my Dad heavily breathed staring at me with unblinking eyes. His fists tensed and pulsated with anger. I was shaking, trying to curl up and hide. I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t let him see me.
Eventually he left and the sound of the fridge opening and closing, followed by the opening of a can.
“Go to bed, you little shit,” Dad said calmly from the other room.
I didn’t answer back, didn’t ask about dinner, just got up and walked upstairs and curled up in bed and cried until I eventually slept.
I tried to speak to Tim the next day at school, but he wouldn’t even look at me. A couple of people shouted names at him. Faggot and gay-lord. I could see the hurt in his face, his whole body looked broken. He didn’t lift his feet in the same way. He skipped football, said he wasn’t feeling well and went to the library instead. By that point the teachers knew what was going on and didn’t ask for a note.
Eventually things found a new normal. Tim didn’t speak to me, didn’t really seem to speak to anyone. There were rumours about him joining a new school. Rumours about him getting home schooled. He didn’t speak to me, but at least I didn’t see anger hidden in eyes with every secret glance. And then one day he came up to me, I should have known something was wrong.
“Hey, Chris. I know we aren’t friends any more. I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened.”
I was speechless
“It wasn’t your fault,” he said
And with those final words he walked away. The next day he wasn’t in school. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe he was ill or had actually moved to another school. Then the whispering started. Tim had slit his wrists with a broken mirror the night before in his bathroom.
And that was that.
TO BE C