by Andy Deats

Encumberment by Andy Deats

“If that's the way you want it then maybe we should break up!” Don screamed through the phone before hanging up. I'd heard tears in his voice, which reflected into my own eyes. This was always the result of our seemingly constant debate. I always told him that he deserved someone better than me, but it just made him angry. “There's nobody better! I just want you!” he had often yelled at me. Those words echoed inside my head as I slowly set my phone down.

Truth be told, I didn't want to break up with him. I loved him. But I knew more than that, he deserved someone better than me. He needed someone who could make him as happy as he made me. As I got off my bed and went downstairs, my mind wandered back to the day we met.

I'd always been a shy kid, keeping to myself as much as possible. As such, I wasn't particularly thrilled when my mom insisted that we meet the new neighbors. I saw a kid of my own age in the back of a U-Haul truck who literally jumped at the possibility of human contact when my mom said hello. “I'm Don!” he said, a grin on his face and a hand outstretched.

“Jack.” I nodded my head, but denied his offer.

“Be ye a pirate?” He curved his finger into a hook and closed one eye, making an obvious allusion to one of the blockbuster movie hits of the year. I rolled my eyes, but forced a laugh when my mom brought down swift vengeance upon the back of my head.

Little did I know that this skinny blonde boy would become a major part of my life. As we moved upwards in both education and height, we became close friends. He turned into a jock. The attractive basketball star stereotype fit him to a tee, as they say. As we grew up, he became more muscled and handsome. His hair got darker and longer as his arms got bigger.

I, on the other hand, only seemed to get less popular. By high school I was labeled as “emo.” In truth I just really didn't like most people other than Don. I always wondered what went through their heads behind the shallow, fake smiles. After a few months in high school, I realized that the answer was “nothing”.

That's one of the reasons that Don and I became such good friends. We both realized that most of the others in our school were shallow and didn't care about real things. We, on the other hand, could talk about anything. Well, almost anything.

For the longest time I was afraid to tell Don I was gay. He was the attractive, muscular basketball jock and I was the skinny, shy “emo” kid with black hair and bad skin. Everybody always wondered why he hung out with “that loser emo kid,” as I had come to be known around school. I couldn't give him a reason to end our friendship. I couldn't risk it.

I sat on the sofa in my living room as I remembered the night that it all changed for us. It was one of our average nights, at the beginning. He'd invited me to spend the night at his house for pizza and movies, and I happily accepted. During one such dramatic movie we witnessed the awkward coming out of a boy to his parents.

I stayed silent about the scene, a knot building in my stomach as I waited for my best friend to react. My pulse started to race as my palms sweated. My nervousness likely showed on my face as I shifted in my seat.

“You OK, Jack?”

“Yeah, man. I'm fine.”

“Sucks for that guy, huh? I can't believe his mom got so mad at him. I hope mine doesn't.” I originally thought that this was a mental slip on his part but, looking over at Don's face, I could tell that this was a carefully calculated move. I believe he even picked out that particular movie to set himself up for that line. He was “smarter than your average jock,” as he'd often say in his best Yogi Bear impersonation.

“Don,” I started, realizing that there was an awkward silence hanging in the room. “You're gay?”


“Well you can't be kinda gay,” I said, laughing a bit. He blushed and looked at the ground, and I realized I had made a mistake. “Me too,” I said.

I confessed to him that I had a crush on him ever since I had found out I was gay, a sentiment that I was surprised to hear him return. We set up a date, but the rest of the night played out as normal.

I remembered our first date as I went to the bathroom and searched around in the medicine cabinet. We went to a movie, being the inexperienced daters that we were. Don looked amazing when he greeted me outside the theater, and I instantly felt like nothing but an ugly boy who was blessed to be able to walk arm-in-arm with him into the movies.

I had a great time that night, but I couldn't help but notice that people kept staring and I knew what they were thinking. I could practically hear their thoughts. They were wondering how the ugly, skinny little boy could be with that beautiful man who could likely get anybody he wanted, guy or girl.

They were thinking the same thing that I was thinking throughout the whole movie, all the way home, and into my bathroom. I was mad at the boy I saw in the mirror for holding Don back. He had to be punished. He had to be hurt. I took his arm in mine and grabbed a razor. I slid it across his wrist and smiled as I watched tears spring into his eyes from the pain. As he sank to his knees and blood droplets hit the floor, I felt no remorse. I made as many cuts as I could, picking up speed as I went. I didn't feel bad for hurting him. He deserved it. How dare he hold Don back?

I shuddered as I remembered the first time that I had cut myself. I did it again, needing to punish myself for the pain that I caused to Don just now on the phone. By now the pain had become monotonous. Over the past two years that Don and I had been dating, I had cut myself almost every day that we were not with each other. I loved him more than anything and felt like I was only holding him back from being with somebody better than me; somebody more on his level.

He wouldn't let me break up with him, though, and that's when I realized that cutting was no longer enough. I sent Don a text that simply said “I love you. The hurt is over.” and put my phone back in it's drawer in my bedside table. I took a few deep breaths to calm my nerves, and climbed into my truck out front.

I turned the key in the ignition, and took off like a shot. I knew exactly what I had to do, and exactly where to do it. I saw my target, and every fiber of my being locked on to my destination. I pressed hard and my truck jumped the edge of the road. I blacked out almost immediately as my truck slammed hard into the tree, the air bag deploying to slam me back into the rear of the cab.

I remembered waking up in the hospital, my mom holding my hand in one of her own trembling ones. Tears jumped to my eyes as I realized what this meant. I had failed. “There, there, it's OK. You ran a curb, but you're going to be fine.” My body shook with sobs as I was unable to tell her that I did it on purpose. I didn't want that greedy boy who kept Don all to himself to keep living.

My mom left to go to work later and Don came in to sit with me. “That wasn't an accident, was it?”

“No,” I told him, looking down at the floor.

“Why?” was all he was able to choke out.

“Don't cry. I did it for you. I don't want to keep you all to myself when you deserve someone so much better.”

“I don't want someone better. There is nobody better. I only wanna be with you, Jack! For the rest of our lives I only want to be with you.” By now he was holding my hand and looking straight into my eyes. “Jack, don't you get it? I love you. It's me who doesn't deserve you. But I know how much we love each other, so we should be together. If only I could see your smiling face every day I would be the happiest and luckiest guy alive. But if being with me takes that smile away, then...I don't blame you for breaking up with me.”

“I don't want to break up with you. You could do so much better though.” He just stood there silently. I knew his response.

That night they told my mom the news that would change me forever. I was being “recommended” for a stay at a “mental rehabilitation clinic.” I knew what they were saying, though. I was psycho, and I was to stay in “the clinic” for two months or until I “got better,” like I was sick.

The clinic was nothing but a joke. As soon as I arrived, they took my belt and shoes. I suppose they didn't want me using them to hang myself. That would have been bad publicity. I was then herded to a room where a pretty lady told me “we aren't here to judge you. We just want to help you.” Turns out that was the first of hundreds of times I would hear that very same lie.

Then an old man who I learned was to serve as my doctor came in. First he checked my scars and wrote something on a clipboard that I was unable to see. The damned liars were judging me already. Once they started with the inkblot tests, I decided to have some fun with the doctors. The first couple, I answered normally, “flower,” “butterfly,” things like that. By the fifth blot, though, I started answering things like “me with a flamethrower, burning down the city.” I was proud of my ability to keep a straight face.

“If you don't take this seriously, we can't help you,” the old doctor replied.

“Help me!?” I yelled, flipping over my chair as I stood up. “That's all you crazies talk about! I'm not sick or hurt. If anybody in here is crazy, it's you! I just wanna go home and see my boyfriend!”

The doctor wrote something else on his clipboard before I felt a needle in the side of my neck and went into darkness.

I was released six months to the day after I had been admitted to that horrible place, with nothing to show for it except for a truckload of new prescriptions that would “help” me. If they did anything like what those people did, however, I wanted no part of it.

Mom picked me up from “the clinic” and drove me home, trying to make lighthearted small talk the whole way. I indulged her, for the most part. I was mostly happy to get out and be able to see Don again. When we opened the door, some people who were gathered in our living room suddenly shouted “surprise!”

Mom had apparently set up a surprise party for me, to welcome me back from the wacky shack. I quickly scanned the crowd, and didn't see the face that I wanted to see the most. “Mom,” I said, turning to look at her. “Where's Don?”

A grave look suddenly came over her face and she led me to the kitchen. She said nothing, but handed me a small, folded piece of paper.


I know you want me to be happy. No matter what that means. Well, I'm going to finally be happy now. I hope you're not mad at me but, more importantly, I hope you're not mad at yourself. None of this is your fault, so please don't do anything about it.

If you're reading this letter, I guess you made it out of the clinic. I'm glad for that. And I am very sorry that I had to report you. But I didn't want you doing anything to hurt yourself anymore. I wish I could see you again so that I could see the progress you've made, but this is for the best.

I'm finally going to be happy because now you will be able to find somebody who makes you feel good about yourself. You won't have to hurt yourself anymore or try to kill yourself because of me. I really do love you Jack. Always and forever. That's why I've decided to set you free.

All my love


I stared at the note through my tears for what must have been an hour. I don't know if Don realized it or not when he made that decision, but he wasn't just ending one life when he killed himself. He ended two. A big part of me died that day. A big part that I'm never going to be able to get back. But I became determined that I would never be sad anymore. Don didn't want that. Don made the ultimate sacrifice so that I wouldn't be sad anymore. If that's what Don wanted, that's what I'd do. Anything to make him happy....