Sophomore Year

Chapter Two

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

The next morning, I got a “How’s it going kiddo,” and a smile as I walked into the kitchen for breakfast.

“Couldn’t be better,” I replied with a smile as I sat down to a plate of bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns. “Have trouble sleeping?”

“Why? Just because I made us a proper breakfast?” he asked in return.

“Well, the last time you cooked a breakfast like this, I think I was six,” I replied with a grin.

“Call it a peace offering,” he responded with a smile.

“How thoughtful,” I said, grinning.

“I’d better get going or I’m going to be late,” he responded.

I got up and gave him a quick hug. “Thanks Dad,” I said.

“Just don’t get used to it,” he said with a smile.

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I replied and he was out the door.

The first words out of Jeff’s mouth as we met up at his house were, “How’d it go with your dad?”

I just grinned at him and replied, “Perfectly.”

“Cool,” he responded. “I knew your dad would be cool about it, but I was still kinda worried for ya. I was going to phone, but I figured if things went bad, you would’ve come over or phoned.”

“Yeah, for sure” I said.

We were actually a few minutes early for homeroom. Ms. Spencer looked at us as we walked in and grabbed her heart like she was having a heart attack. We just smiled at her. She is definitely one of the coolest teachers in the school. After a horribly grueling math class and hideously boring history class, we were all sitting at our table in the cafeteria. Everyone was chatting and carrying on as usual when a very meek looking Craig approached the table.

He stood there for a few seconds until Martin asked, “You gonna sit down or stand there like an idiot all lunch break?”

He glanced at me, I smiled at him, and he sat down in his usual spot. “Thanks,” he said. He stayed pretty quiet throughout the break, which was unusual for him. He responded when someone spoke to him, but that was it. At the end of the break, as we were walking out to go to class, he came up beside me.

When he did, he very quietly asked, “Can we talk after school?”

“Sure, where?” I asked, sounding a little surprised and feeling a lot relieved.

“How about we meet at the park at 4:00?” he responded.

“Okay,” I replied, “see you at 4:00.”

“What did he want?” Jeff asked as soon as I caught up with him.

“He wants to meet at the park after school and talk,” I replied.

“You want me to come with you in case he wants to start some shit?” Jeff asked.

“No, I don’t think he’s gonna start anything,” I replied. “Thanks though.”

“He better not, if he knows what’s good for him,” Jeff stated.

“Chill,” I told him. “Nothing’s gonna happen.”

Afternoon classes were basically ‘same shit different day,’ and as Jeff and I were walking out the front doors, I glanced to my left and saw Craig right beside us. He gave me a weak smile and I just nodded and smiled back. He quickly turned towards the park and took off running.

“I guess I should head for the park,” I said.

“You sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Jeff asked.

“Naw, things will be cool,” I replied.

About ten minutes later, I was walking into the park. I looked around and finally saw Craig sitting at a picnic table way off in the far corner. I slowly wandered over to where he was sitting.

“Hey,” I said as I sat down across from him.

“Hey,” he responded.

“So, you wanted to talk?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” he replied.

“You guess? Either you do or you don’t,” I responded.

“Okay, look, I’m sorry for acting like such an asshole yesterday,” he said. “You just caught me by surprise.”

“Hey, no problem,” I said smiling.

We then found ourselves in what could only be described as a lengthy awkward silence. As I watched him fidget, it was obvious he was extremely nervous about something. I finally asked him if everything was okay.

He looked at me for a few seconds before almost whispering, “No, nothing’s okay. Nothing’s ever going to be okay.”

“Uhhh, you just lost me there, man,” I said.

“How the fuck can you be so calm and okay about it?” he asked. “I mean…fuck!”

“Okay about what?” I asked, even though I was beginning to get an idea what was bothering him.

“Being gay,” he replied. “You act like it's no big deal…like it’s normal or something. It’s a sin man. You’re going to go to fucking hell for it.”

“Whoa, where’s that coming from?” I asked him.

“The church, the Bible, God hates gays,” he responded.

“Okay, hang on a minute. As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say anything about God hating gays…or gays going to hell. Besides, you don’t even go to church man, so what’s with all this Bible shit?” I asked.

“My Grandpa Tom does and he’s told me like a million times what happens to gays. He says they are an abomination in Gods eyes. God hates them and they’re going to burn in hell,” he said, almost in tears.

“So you’re scared that God hates me and I’m going to hell?” I asked.

“Not just you,” he barely whispered and the tears started.

“Oh God…Craig?” I quietly responded.

He just stared at me, tears running down his cheeks, making little wet spots on the front of his t-shirt. I moved closer and wrapped my arms around him. He tried to push away, but I held on. After a few seconds he relaxed into my hug and hugged me back. We must have sat there for at least five minutes before he loosened his grip and we moved apart.

“I can’t be like this,” he whispered. “I just can’t.”

“Craig, ask yourself one question,” I said quietly.

“What?” he asked.

“Why would God create us gay, if He hates gays?” I asked him.

“It’s not God, it’s Satan,” he replied. “Satan has put a demon in our hearts, a demon for gayness. I let him do it and now I can’t make it go away.”

It was the first time in my life that I wished I had read the Bible, because I was at a total loss for a response to that statement. Unfortunately, Craig was staring at me like he expected some kind of response from me that would make things okay, but I didn’t have one. I had no idea what to say.

After a rather lengthy pause, I finally said, “I wish I knew how to respond to that.”

“See. I’m right,” he said. “Satan has us possessed.”

“No he doesn’t,” I responded, as a flash of insight entered my thought processes. “If Satan had us possessed, then he would have given me a perfect answer that would make you think being gay was okay. Since I have no idea what to say, then Satan isn’t controlling me.”

Craig thought about that for a minute or so before responding with, “I don’t know.”

“You know what?” I asked.

“No, what?” he asked.

“We need to talk to someone who knows the Bible and knows about the different translations and interpretations…an expert,” I said.

“Who?” he asked. “Besides my grandpa, that is.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way man,” I said, “but I don’t think your grandpa is an expert. Or does he have a degree in theology?”

“No, he never finished high school,” he replied.

“If I find a minister or someone, will you come with me and talk to him, or her?” I asked him.

“Okay, I guess,” he replied after some thought, “but no one can know about me. No one.”

“I promise,” I responded. “We’ll make it all about me and say you’re there as a friend to support me. Okay?”

“Okay,” he replied. “And Steven…thanks.”

“What are friends for?” I asked with a smile.

“I better get home or I’m going to catch hell if I’m late for dinner,” he said.

“Kay, see you tomorrow,” I said as we bumped fists and headed towards our respective homes.

So now I had a dilemma. Who the hell could I talk to who Craig would accept as an expert on the Bible and who he would believe above his Grandpa? I threw my backpack in the corner as I walked in the door. I really wasn’t ready to try to focus on homework yet so I decided to see if there was anything worth watching on TV. As I was thumbing through the TV Guide to see what was on, I noticed Prayers for Bobby was going to be on the Lifetime channel on Saturday at 9:00. I had seen it when it first came out and cried through most of it. I may not have been aware of my own orientation at the time, but I had no trouble grasping the significance of what the movie was about. I decided it would be the perfect way to show Craig that his grandpa, with his intolerant religious homophobic crap, was just like Bobby’s mom and was just as wrong as Bobby’s mom. I also remembered that she had talked to the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, so I decided, if the movie didn’t get to him, I would visit the one near us and ask if Craig and I could talk to one of the pastors there.

I awoke the next morning to my radio alarm playing some really nasty Willy Nelson song. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea and think I actually listen to country music, I don’t. I apologize to country music fans, but I use it on my alarm because I wouldn’t be able to lie there listening to it for more than thirty seconds. I did hit the snooze button three times though, before I finally managed to crawl out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. Half an hour later, showered, teeth brushed, and assorted morning rituals done, I was ready to face another day. Dad was gone by the time in got downstairs. Sitting on the table was a bowl, a box of cereal and jug of milk. Beside it was a note from Dad. ‘This you can get used to. Have a great day,’ it read. I just laughed as I thought to myself, ‘Yes! Things are cool with Dad.’ I quickly ate breakfast and met up with Jeff for our normal walk to school.

“So what did Craig want?” he asked.

“Nothing really,” I replied. “He just wanted to apologize for his little rant the other day.”

“Cool. I knew he would come around,” Jeff responded.

“Yeah, I’m so glad he did,” I said. “He’s a good friend and I would hate to lose him.”

We walked into homeroom at our normal time, two seconds before the bell rang, and got a smile from Ms. Spencer as she shook her head. The morning actually went by fast, considering how much I love math and history. Craig was there for lunch with the rest of the guys and everything seemed to be back to normal, including Craig. He had something to say about everything and, every chance he got, he was once again stinging everyone with his infamous one-liners.

As we were leaving the cafeteria, I stepped up beside him and asked him what he was doing Saturday night.

“Nothing yet, why?” he asked.

“Well there’s an excellent movie on at 9:00 that I think you should watch. You think you could come over?” I asked.

“What’s it about?” he asked in return.

“It’s called Prayers for Bobby and it’s about what we talked about. I think it will answer a lot of your questions. We can watch it and then talk about it,” I replied.

“No one else is going to be there, are they?” he asked.

“Nope, just you and me,” I responded.

“Yeah okay then. I’ll be there,” he said.

The rest of the week was…well…the rest of the week. No big issues. No big surprises. Well, there was the rumour that Debbie Walsh was pregnant, but that was no big surprise. She looked like she had been trying to smuggle a watermelon into class for the last month. No one seemed to know which member of the football team or basketball team might be the father though.

Friday after school, Jeff and I hung out and played video games half the night. Most of the day on Saturday, I just lazed around the house between chores. Dad and I had just finished doing the dishes when the phone rang. It was Craig, wondering what time he should come over, and asking again if I was sure no one else would show up. I told him to come over anytime and we could play Xbox or whatever until the movie came on. I also assured him that Jeff had a hot date with Carol, and there was no chance anyone else would drop by. About fifteen minutes later, he was ringing the doorbell. I invited him in, offered him a coke, and after he stopped to say hi to my dad, we headed up to my room. Craig and I had never really spent time one-on-one together before, and we had a blast. Although I discovered, much to my annoyance, that there were no Xbox games that he wasn’t a master at. I did win one game, but I think that’s just because he let me win.

At 9:00, we sat back on my bed and turned on the TV. I know you’re not supposed to, but I also hit the record button on the DVR, as I knew if Craig was anything like me, he would miss half the movie because he was crying too hard. Plus, if we could go back and forth afterwards, we would be able to talk about different parts.

Suddenly the relaxed, free-wheeling Xbox wizard became the quiet, nervous boy I had seen at the park. We got through the commercials and introductory credits and I could already sense that something had hit a nerve. Instead of sitting on the far side of my bed, leaving a safe two-foot space between us, Craig had somehow moved so that his right shoulder was pressed against my left shoulder. It wasn’t very long before I heard a couple of sniffles coming from Craig’s direction. Since I had had the foresight to station a box of tissues close by, I offered him one and set the box on his lap.

He quickly glanced at me and through a very weak smile, whispered, “Thanks.”

When Bobby stopped and began to walk out onto the freeway overpass, Craig lost it. I immediately put an arm around his shoulders and he just melted into me. In the next few minutes, he must have used half the box of tissues. He did settle down a little and seemed to pay very close attention to the parts where Bobby’s mom was reading his journal and where she was talking to the MCC minister and the people from PFLAG. He totally lost it again at the end when she left the pride parade and hugged the young guy watching the parade. I took his hand that wasn’t holding a tissue and squeezed it. He squeezed back and cuddled in even closer. When the movie finished, we just sat in silence, all cuddled up for several minutes.

Finally, Craig just whispered, “Oh God.”

“Yeah,” was all I could think of as a reply.

After about three minutes, Craig quietly chuckled and said, “I think I owe you for a box of tissues.”

“Yeah you do,” I responded with a quiet chuckle of my own.

I asked Craig if he wanted a coke or something. When he said yeah, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a couple of cokes and some chips while I was at it. As soon as I climbed back on the bed, he cuddled back up against me and then we talked. We talked, replayed parts of the movie, and talked some more. Before we knew it, it was 2:00 in the morning.

“Oh shit, you’re not going to be in trouble are you?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied, “Mom and Dad went to my aunt’s for the weekend so no one’s home anyway.”

“Good,” I said. “I don’t think you need any more drama tonight.”

“No, for sure,” he responded. “I feel totally drained right now.”

“You want to crash here then?” I asked.

“Yeah, please,” he replied. “I don’t really want to be alone tonight. Too many parts of that movie hit too close to home.”

I gave him a little squeeze and said, “Okay, lets get sorted out and then get some sleep.”

I found him a new toothbrush, and within fifteen minutes we were ready for bed.

“Boxers okay with you or do you want me to hunt up some pyjamas?” I asked him.

“No, boxers are cool,” he replied, and two minutes later, we were in bed.

After another minute or so, I heard another quiet sniffle so I asked, “You okay?”

“Will you hold me?” he asked, sounding like a frightened little boy again.

“C’mere,” I replied as he rolled over against me and I wrapped my arms around him.

A few seconds later, I heard him quietly whisper, “Thanks…for everything.”

“No problem,” I whispered back.

The next thing we knew, it was 12:30 in the afternoon. We were still cuddled up in bed, Craig half on top of me with my arms still wrapped around him, his face nuzzled in against my neck…and Jeff sitting on the end of my bed watching us.