Sophomore Year

Chapter Seven

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 met up with Jeff and we walked past Craig’s to pick him up, then past Carol’s to pick her up, and the four of us made our way to school. Oh yeah, a new twist had happened to Jeff’s and my morning ritual. We had taken to getting up and leaving for school half an hour earlier. Dad said it was the price of love. I didn’t disagree.

As soon as we got in the front doors of the school, we saw Mr. Jameson signal us to come with him. Once we were in his room, with a big smile, he said, “I talked to Mr. Ross. We have his blessing and the GSA is a go.”

“Thank you. I guess this means you’re going to be our staff facilitator,” I said with a grin.

“I guess I am,” he replied with an equally big grin.

“Thanks,” Craig said. “This is going to be so cool.”

We met up with the guys again at lunch. When we told them the GSA was approved and Mr. Jameson was going to be our facilitator, I thought they were going to jump up and do a dance on the table. Needless to say, we attracted a lot of attention once again.

Just before lunch ended, Aaron stopped on his way out of the cafeteria. “I take it the GSA is on,” he said with a smile.

“Yep,” I answered, “it’s on.”

“Great, let me know when you guys are going to meet,” he said.

“For sure,” Craig relied.

“Aaron Smyth?” Adam questioned as Aaron walked away.

“Yeah, Aaron Smyth,” Craig replied as Jeff just looked at me and grinned an ‘I knew it’ kind of grin.

“Holy shit,” Greg said. “How cool is that?”

When we got to Mr. Jameson’s class, he called me over and asked when we wanted to meet. I told him that whatever time was good for him was good for us. When he asked if the next day after school was too soon, I told him I was pretty sure that would be fine for everyone. When I asked him if there was a football practice, he just grinned and replied that, no, there wasn’t. Once again, during class, I listened and wrote notes like my life depended on it. I was beginning to think my mark in Bio just might go up at this rate. I survived my last class with my hearing still intact, then Craig and I were finally on our way to his place. His mom had decided that my dad shouldn’t be feeding Craig every night, and we should eat there once in a while. Besides, they hadn’t seen him for more than a few minutes a day for almost a week and they missed him. How sweet is that?

Craig and I helped his mom get dinner ready. Once we were all seated at the table and eating, Craig’s dad asked us about the GSA. I guess he had heard about it from Greg’s dad, who happened to be one of his coworkers. We explained what we hoped it would accomplish and how much we had organized so far.

“You’ve come a long way in a very short time,” his mom said to Craig.

“Yes you have,” his dad said, “and we want you to know we are very proud of you…both of you.”

“Thanks,” we both said.

“You coping okay with all this new notoriety?” his mom asked.

“Sometimes I wonder how I could have been so stupid,” Craig said. “I mean, my life now, compared to before, is like night and day. I was so miserable for years. I felt so trapped before. I knew who I was but I couldn’t allow myself to be who I was. It’s hard to explain. It was like I was caught in one of those wire snare traps, and every time I moved, the trap just tightened around my neck till I couldn’t even breathe anymore. Now, I feel so free… I can be myself. I’m gay and it’s all good. I know, my friends know, everyone knows. Hell, I’m almost screaming it from the rooftops and it feels so good to be out.” Then he looked at me, grinned and added, “And best of all, I have Steven. Right now, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. So, yeah, I’d say I’m coping okay.”

“We were pretty sure you were,” his dad said, smiling. “What little we’ve seen of you lately, you’ve been a new person. Everything from how you carry yourself to the permanent smile on your face tells us you’re stronger, more confident and happier. It’s like we have a strange new kid living with us.”

“So, you’re saying I’m strange?” Craig asked.

“You’ve always been strange,” his dad replied with a grin. “This is just a more pleasant, less worrisome kind of strange.”

“Just remember, it’s all in the genes,” Craig responded. “And you know who I inherited them from.”

The meal continued on with more the usual dinnertime chit chat. Once dinner was done, Craig and I shooed his mom and dad to the living room, cleaned up and did the dishes. Once that was all done, we went up to Craig’s room, did our homework, played a couple of video games and, of course, made out till it was time for me to head home. Craig walked me home this time, kissed me good night, and ran most of the way back to his place.

School the next day was nothing new. As I said before, it was ‘the same shit, different day’. When Craig, Jeff, Carol and I got to Mr. Jameson’s room after school, Adam, Greg, Pete and Ari were already there. If you could weigh excitement by the pound, I think there was about a ton of it in the room right about then. There were also six others there that I didn’t know. Adam immediately introduced them as Sharon, Liz, Marcy, Lynn, Mark and Terry. Sharon and Lynn were a couple, as were Marcy and Terry, and Mark and Liz. There were also several other girls and guys there, some I knew and some I didn’t. They had heard about the meeting through the rumour-mill and wanted to be in from the start. We had about twenty-three people already…wow.

Just as we were about to get started, the door opened and Aaron walked in with Jas, Kerry, Kyle, Josh, and three other guys we didn’t really know from the football team…thirty-one people now.

“Hi Dad,” he said as he walked in the room.

“Hi,” Mr. Jameson replied.

I think my jaw almost hit the floor at that point and Mr. Jameson just laughed.

“I take it you didn’t know that Aaron is my son,” he said.

“Uh, no,” I replied. “I might have if he was Aaron Jameson,” I added with a laugh.

“I will be soon,” Aaron said. “As soon as the adoption goes through.”

“I married Aaron’s mom last year,” Mr. Jameson explained, “but we had to wait a year before I could legally adopt him.”

“Whoa, cool,” Adam said.

“Yeah,” Aaron responded. “I hate Smyth. He couldn’t even spell it right.”

Just then, Jamie and all the guys walked in with Scott right behind them. Scott sat next to Aaron and gave him a quick kiss, which raised a few eyebrows. Jamie and the guys came over and sat with us.

“Okay, we ready to start?” Mr. Jameson asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Adam said as everyone began digging in their backpacks for information they had printed from The Mail Crew, GLSEN, PFLAG, and a few other sources. We spent the next hour going through the material and coming up with a plan to get started. By the time the hour was over, we had a reasonably good idea of what we wanted to do initially and how to go about advertising throughout the school. There was still a lot more to do, but we had a good start-up plan in place. One of the things we managed to do was to select officers for the club. Craig, after some hesitation, accepted the position of president. Aaron was vice-president, Adam was our treasurer, and I got the job of secretary. Adam, Greg, Ari and Pete were in charge of advertising to inform the school of what we were all about: acceptance and understanding. Marcy, Terry, Martin, Jamie and Jas were in charge of coming up with some social events to attract new members. Everyone else would step in and help where they could.

As we were leaving the school, Craig looked at me and asked, “How the fuck did I end up as president?”

“From my point of view?” I asked.

“Yeah.” He replied.

“I see you as the best choice because of where you were and where you are now,” I responded. “You’ve lived the worst moments and the best. You know how it feels to realize you’re gay and be terrified of being found out. You know how it feels to come out and be loved and accepted. You've seen being gay from every angle. Who better to empathize with other gay kids who look to the GSA for support? Whatever they may be going through or are feeling, you’ve probably been through or felt. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, I guess,” he replied, “but I’m right in the spotlight. It still feels like just yesterday I couldn’t admit it to myself, and now I’m going to be announcing it to the whole school and talking at the next assembly.”

“I think we’ve already announced it to the whole school,” I said with a chuckle.

“Okay, I guess we did,” he said, smiling. “I just hope I don’t freeze when I have to talk at the assembly.”

“You won’t,” I reassured him. “Besides, all the rest of us will be up there with you, so you won’t be alone.”

Craig actually did an awesome job speaking at the assembly. I was so proud of him. He talked about the purpose of the GSA. He talked about being gay, the fear that often goes hand in hand with that realization, the harm people can do unintentionally using terms like, ‘Oh that’s so gay’, the harm people can do intentionally because they have some weird, preconceived notion about gays, that it’s a choice, that we are all predators or pedophiles, that we have some ‘agenda’ to take over the world. He said that all we want is to be accepted as normal people like everyone else. The ONLY difference between gays and straights is whom we fall in love with.

As Craig was stepping back, one of the kids put his hand up.

“Yes,” Craig said, indicating he should speak.

“The Bible says being gay is an abomination and all gays will burn in hell.”

Craig looked at him and replied, “Been there, done that. If you read on, it also says children who disobey their parents shall be put to death. In which case, you probably should be dead by now. Don’t believe everything you read.”

Mr. Ross quickly got to the mike and started some other announcements before things got out of hand and the assembly turned into a religious debate.

Later that day as Craig, Jeff, Carol and I were walking to Jerry’s, a young guy who looked like he should be in middle school stepped up beside us. After walking about half a block, he turned to Craig and said, “Thank you. What you said today was way cool.”

“You’re welcome,” Craig replied, “but I just told it the way it is.”

“The guy who was mouthing off about the Bible, he’s my brother,” he said. “I loved the way you nailed his ass. Unfortunately, I gotta live with him. Fuck, I even have to share a room with him.”

“Ouch,” Jeff said.

“Yeah,” he replied. “He wasn’t always like that. But he got this girlfriend, and she’s got him all into church and stuff. He’s drivin’ me nuts. He even fuckin’ prays for me every night. It doesn’t matter how late I stay up, he waits for me. I just wish I was big enough to kick his ass.”

“Have you talked to your folks about it?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? If they knew I was gay, my dad would kick me out in a second,” he said.

“Is he religious like your brother?” Jeff asked.

“No, he just hates gays. I don’t know what my mom thinks,” he replied. “’Course, Dad hates anyone who’s not white trailer trash like he is, and Mom had a functioning brain cell once, but I think it died of loneliness. She just sits at the table rolling pennies and does what Dad tells her to do, which is usually ‘get me another beer’.”

“Whoa, that’s totally gotta suck,” I said.

“We’re headed over to Jerry’s for some variation of ice cream, you wanna join us?” Jeff asked.

“I don’t have any money, otherwise I would, thanks,” he replied.

“Hey, it’s on us,” Jeff responded. “Anyone who has to live with that shithead deserves a Jerry’s banana split with an orange float on the side.”

“Yeah, come on, you need a treat,” Carol said as she wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

“Okay, you talked me into it,” he said, “but you gotta let me treat you guys one day.”

“Deal,” I said as we turned into Jerry’s.

We found a table big enough for the five of us and sat down.

“Sorry, I should have introduced myself sooner,” he said as he sat down. “I’m Chad Richards.”

As we started to introduce ourselves, he just laughed and said, “I know who you are.”

“Okay, cool,” I said. “Let’s order then.”

We all went up to the counter and ordered. Chad actually did order a banana split, but with a Coke instead of an orange float. He said he didn’t think his stomach was big enough for the float as well as the banana split. As he put it, his parents only bought groceries if they had money left over after stocking the beer fridge. That comment made his small size and skinny build make sense. You need to be fed to grow.

We had a great time chatting with him. He turned out to be very intelligent, with a keen sense of humour. Considering the shit life he seemed to be living, he seemed to be a very happy, well-adjusted young guy. He and Craig got into the religious thing for a few minutes. He was very sympathetic toward what Craig had gone through. He assured us that he didn’t believe any of his brother’s religious ranting. It was getting way past annoying, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to put up with it. About all we could do was to sympathize with him at that point. All things considered, Chad had a very positive attitude and I really began to like the guy. Little did we know, however, things were about to happen that would make Chad a significant part of our lives.