They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
The next week went by like I was in a fog. Each day was a copy of the prior day. The only classes I enjoyed were Chorus, PE — especially playing rugby — and Creative Writing.
When I was in Chorus on Friday David walked up to me. “Tony, can we talk after class, or during lunch? I have a problem and I’d like to find out if you can find a way to help me solve it.”
“Sure, I guess. How about during lunch? I’ll grab a sandwich and something to drink and we can meet outside at one of the tables next to the science building.”
David grinned. “Sounds good. See you at lunch.”
I got a turkey and avocado sandwich and a Vitamin Water Zero lemonade and walked outside to meet David. He sat at a small table and waved when he saw me.
“Hey to you too, David.”
I opened the plastic wrap around my sandwich and took a bite, then unscrewed the top of my lemonade. David was eating a burrito, and he had a diet 7Up. I drank some of my lemonade and took another bite of my sandwich. He drank some of his 7Up and lifted his burrito like he was about to take a bite. Instead he put it down and took a deep breath.
“This is… it’s so hard to ask you to help me with this.”
He sat looking at me, like he was deciding if he should say something else.
“What I want to ask you to do is really weird. I want to make sure you understand that if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine with me.”
He took another bite of his burrito.
I started laughing. “So far the only thing weird is you haven’t asked me to do anything.”
I took a bite of my sandwich. “This is a really good sandwich. Turkey and avocado. I recommend it.”
David grinned and then started laughing. He shook his head and took a deep breath. “I am such a wuss. Okay, let me lay it on the line. I’m in the visual and vocal arts track. That’s why I’m taking Chorus. I’m also taking Acting 2. We’re going to put on five one-act plays together in one performance next month. The plays are all written by students, two by Wilson students and the others by students from high schools in other parts of the country.
“I’m in one of the plays, Offsides by Sabrina Audrey Jess. She wrote and produced the play in 2005 when she was a senior in a high school in Virginia. It’s about Ryan, a football star who realizes that he’s gay and is starting to understand what it means to be gay. He meets another student who’s not an athlete but is cute and is gay, and Ryan falls for him. I’m playing the part of Ryan.
“Here’s the problem. There’s a scene at the end of the play where we kiss. I’m real nervous about it because the guy playing Bryce, the other guy in the play, said that I’m a terrible kisser and I need to practice before the next rehearsals. I guess it’s because I don’t know how to kiss a guy. I’m not gay, but you are. Uh… that’s right, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I am gay. I don’t try to hide it, but I don’t go around with a sign around my neck.”
“Have you ever kissed another guy?”
I laughed. “David, I’m gay and I’m out. You should be able to figure out my answer to your question would have to be yes. So, how do you want me to help you? Uh… wait a minute, never mind. I think I’ve guessed what you want. You need someone, a gay guy, who can tell you what you’re doing wrong when you’re kissing another guy. I also think I can guess what you’re doing wrong. You think kissing a guy is different than kissing a girl. It isn’t. We can talk about that. So, when do you have to complete this… exercise? Homework? Whatever you want to call it?”
“My next rehearsal is tomorrow. Our first performance of the plays is a week from tomorrow. I’ll give you some free tickets. Anyway, what I’d like to do is kiss you and have you tell me what’s wrong with the way I’m doing it.”
“When do you want to do this? Not right now, I hope!”
“No, not now. How about right after school? What’s your eighth period class?”
“Creative Writing in room L-122. What’s your eighth period class?”
“Eighth period is when I have Acting 2A. It’s in room T-105 in the Theater. The room will be available, and because today’s Friday I don’t think there’ll be anyone else using room T-105.”
“Okay, that’s convenient. I’m meeting Scott, my boyfriend, after school. He has PE eighth period.”
“The outside entrance to the room is right across from the boy’s gym.”
“Okay, I’ll text him to meet me in room T-105 after his PE class.”
It was three forty-five when I got to room T-105. David was there reading his script out loud. I listened for two or three minutes then cleared my throat. He looked up and smiled.
“Hi, Tony. Did you just get here?”
“I’ve been here for a few minutes. I was listening to you read the script. Sounds like it’s an interesting play.”
“Thanks. I think Offsides is not only an interesting play but one with an important message. By the way, I have your free tickets. Will four be enough?”
“Yes, thanks a lot. This will take care of me and Scott and Todd and Brian. You know, we could actually buy our own tickets. The school probably needs the money.”
“Yeah, you could. But if I give you the tickets you’ll be sure to come to see the play because you’d be too embarrassed to not show up after getting free tickets. They’re for Saturday, November 29th at one p.m. That’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”
“Okay, that’s good. So, when do you want to rehearse the kissing scene?”
“I guess right now, it that’s okay with you, Tony.”
“No time like the present. Besides, Scott will be here to meet up with me. We’re going to go to a movie. I think. Whatever. So, where do you want to do this?”
“The way the scene is set up on stage is that it’s in the evening. Uh… I guess I should explain that there isn’t any scenery, just two chairs and a table. The kiss scene is at the end of the play. The chairs face each other and our knees touch. We slowly lean together and then we kiss. The lights fade to black. Our kiss is visible for about ten to twelve seconds, and we have to hold it until the lights go out.”
“Leaning together like that sounds clumsy.”
“Yeah, it is, but it helps show that this first kiss starts off being awkward and tentative. We can start by putting two chairs facing each other and I’ll show you how we move together, without kissing yet. Okay?”
It was strange, preparing to kiss a boy who wasn't Scott. But I wasn’t nervous at all about doing this kissing practice or whatever it would be called. David moved two wood chairs with arms so they were eighteen inches apart. He used a ruler, so I knew it was eighteen inches. We sat across from each other. He reached across and put his hands on the arms of my chair and leaned toward me. Then he pulled back.
“See how I was leaning forward and putting my hands on the arms of your chair? After I do that, you need to lean forward and put your hands on the arms of my chair.”
We did that. The effect was that our faces were about four inches apart. If we leaned just a little bit further we’d be kissing. Instead, David moved back and so did I.
“Okay, now let’s do it again but when you lean do it a little slower than me. I’m Ryan, the football quarterback and the initiator here, and you’re Bryce, the one who’s more tentative about what’s about to happen. He thinks that Ryan is going to kiss him, and he wants him to, but it scares him a bit. Let’s try it again.”
We did, but this time when I leaned forward I did it a little slower than David.
“Perfect! Now, can we try the kiss? This time we won’t hold it, let’s just do a quick kiss and pull back.”
We did, and the kiss lasted about 2 seconds.
“Well?” David obviously wanted to know what I thought about his kissing technique.
“You’re holding your lips so they’re stiff and sort of hard. Think about when you kiss your girlfriend. Aren’t her lips soft and supple? Aren’t yours the same?”
David moved his lips around and it was the funniest thing I’d seen all day. I started laughing.
“If you’re making those faces to make your lips supple, stop. All it’s doing is making you look silly, like a little kid making faces. Take your hand and hold it so it’s relaxed. See this part in back of your thumb and index finger?” I showed him what I meant. “Touch it with your lips like this.” I showed him how I was pursing my lips and then using them to pull on the skin between my thumb and forefinger with my lips so the skin was being held by my lips very lightly.
“Okay, when you kiss your hand there, softly hold the skin with your lips. Then keeping your lips in the same position, pull your hand away and touch your lips with the side of your index finger. Feel how soft your lips are? That’s what you want them to be when you kiss Bryce. Once the kiss starts we should move closer and make the kiss more… personal. Let’s try it.”
We tried it several times and finally David had it down so his kiss was perfect.
“Okay,” he said, and he seemed satisfied. “Now let’s do it the way I’ll have to do it in the play. I want to know if I’m being consistent each time we do the kiss.”
“Okay, but there’s one other thing. Moisten your lips a little bit then rub them together between kisses. Otherwise your lips will be dried out and the kiss won’t work.”
We did the kiss scene several times. “You’re being very consistent, David. I think you’re ready for your rehearsal tomorrow.”
He looked at me and I guessed we weren’t done. I knew I was right when he said, “We need to test the kiss for the count of twelve. So mentally count to twelve; like one hundred one, one hundred two, and so on. And hold the kiss until you get to one hundred twelve. Then we’ll pull back from the kiss.”
“Why do we have to count and why aren’t you doing the counting?”
“In the play we don’t have to do any counting. The lights are being turned down and then off; this takes about twelve seconds and then the play ends. We’re holding the kiss until the stage is completely dark. But for this practice there’s no way to make the room dark. So, I figured that if you did the counting it would be more comfortable for you. You’d know when it will be over, and not have to wait for me to count.”
We did the kiss scene and I closed my eyes when our lips met. Then I did the countdown. It ended early, when I heard someone yell, “What the fuck are you doing? I thought we were boyfriends. If you’re kissing someone else I don’t want you to ever kiss me again!”
Oh my god! It was Scott, and he was in tears. He turned and walked out of the classroom.
I ran after him. “Scott, wait! You don’t understand! Let me explain! I was helping David practice for a play.” I grabbed his arm. He turned and pulled his arm away, then shoved me away with both hands. I stumbled and almost fell back, but I regained my balance.
“There’s nothing to explain. I saw what you two were doing. You were kissing and you didn’t stop until I shouted at you. I don’t want to talk to you ever again. I just… I thought you loved me. I loved you, Tony. I walk in where we’re supposed to meet and I see you kissing someone else. I hate you! I HATE you! Just go away and leave me alone! I never want to see you again! Ever!” He turned and ran out of the building. I stood there with tears running down my face. I’d lost him. He hated me.
David grabbed my shoulder. “Go after him, Tony! Explain what we were doing.”
“I did explain. He said he hates me. Oh, god, I’ve lost him.” Now I was standing there, crying like a little kid.
David looked at me then turned and ran in the direction that Scott had run. I stood there. My heart felt like it had been broken. That was because it had been broken.
I couldn’t take the bus, not when I was crying, so I walked to Aunt Nora’s house from school with tears streaming down my face. I’d never been so sad in my entire life. Everything had turned into a living hell. It all went wrong.
No one was home. I was glad. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I went into my bedroom and closed the door, grabbed and clicked on my iPod, then slumped down onto the floor and leaned against the side of my bed. I inserted the earbuds and pressed play. There was only one song in the playlist I selected: I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miz — Les Misérables.
Our chorus teacher had decided to use this musical as the basis of what we’d do during second semester. Oh, we’d never be able to perform it before an audience; the royalties for a performance license were far beyond what our high school could afford. But we could, and did, sing it in class, learning every song, every nuance, every turn of phrase. I had fallen in love with this music, with these lyrics. I knew every song by heart and didn’t need the score.
I Dreamed a Dream was the first song we learned, and it was my favorite. I Dreamed a Dream meant more to me than any of the others. Maybe it wasn’t appropriate for a 14-year-old gay kid whose life had been shattered beyond recovery. It’s a song performed by a woman, not by a boy. It’s about unrequited heterosexual love, not a crushed teenaged boy’s gay love. I leaned my head back against the top edge of the mattress and listened to the song, then joined in, singing along. Les Misérables. I was miserable. So appropriate. So perfect. So sad.
My tears flowed and were unstoppable, the song repeated automatically, and I sang along, taking special meaning from the words.
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living,
So different now from what it seemed…
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…
My bedroom door opened. Mom was back from work; she had heard me singing, and must have thought I was practicing. But when she looked into my bedroom she saw me sitting on the floor, slumped against the side of my bed, crying. The lyrics I sang were broken by sobs, tears running down my face, soaking my shirt. The next thing I knew she was sitting on the floor next to me, her arm wrapped around my shoulders, asking me what was wrong. I looked at her, then buried my face in her shoulder and cried and cried. She kept stroking my face, trying to wipe away the tears, but as she wiped away the tears, more appeared. It was hopeless, just like my miserable life.
Eventually I stopped crying. No matter how sad, how miserable someone is, at some point they stop crying. Eventually.
“What’s the matter, Tony? Please tell me. Why are you crying?”
“Oh, Mommy!” I’d just called her ‘Mommy,’ a name for my mom that I’d dredged up from when I was a little boy. “I’ve lost him. I won’t ever get him back.”
“Tony, Tony, please tell me what you mean. Who have you lost? Tell me, and I’ll try to help you fix whatever’s wrong.”
“It will never be fixed.”
“Just tell me everything. Even if it can’t be fixed, it will help you if you tell me what’s wrong, why you’re so sad.”
So I told her.
After my story was over she looked at me and shook her head.
“Okay, so Scott saw David kissing you. You were helping David practice for a play. I don’t see anything wrong with that. All you have to do is explain it to Scott.”
“I already tried! He wouldn’t listen to me. He just turned and walked away. I tried to get him to let me tell him what I was doing. He turned and pushed me and shouted that he didn’t want to talk to me. He said he hated me. Then he ran away.”
“What was David doing when Scott was running away?”
“He ran after Scott.”
“What did you do?”
“I turned around and walked home.”
She stared at me for a few seconds. “Tony, do you love Scott?”
“Yes! I love him so much, Mom. And I’ve lost him.”
“Is Scott worth fighting for?”
“Then why aren’t you out there fighting to get him back?”
“Tony, you’re sitting on your butt on the floor in your bedroom in your Aunt Nora’s house. That’s not fighting to get Scott back.”
“But he said he didn’t want to talk to me!”
“So you turned around and walked home and felt sorry for yourself. Get up and go talk to Scott!”
“But what? Don’t you know where he lives? Get up and go see him. Don’t take no for an answer.”
“But he lives all the way across town near our old house. It’s too far to walk.”
“Is walking the only way for you to get to Scott’s house?”
“No. Would you drive me?”
“I could, but I think you should ride your bike. Show him that you care enough about him that you made the effort to go to his house all by yourself. The ride will also give you time to think about what you’re going to do and say when you see him.”
“Do you think he’ll see me?”
“I do. But you have to make sure you’re ready to see him.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have to be ready to tell him how much you love him. That he’s the most important person in the world. That he’s the only boyfriend for you. Then tell him what you were doing for David.”
“What if he won’t talk to me?”
“Tell him that you’re not going to leave until he lets you explain what you were doing for David.”
“You already said I should do that. But I don’t know if it’s going to work,” I whined.
“But that’s exactly what upset him, Tony. He saw David kissing you. You have to tell him why David was kissing you. That it was so he could practice kissing a guy for a play. You have to tell him it didn’t mean anything, that he, Scott, is the only boy you love.”
“You think I should go now?”
“Yes. I think you should get on your bike right now and ride over to Scott’s house and tell him that you love him.”
I took a deep breath. “Alright. I’ll do it.”
On my ride to his house I thought a lot about what I could say to Scott. Most of it was just words. I needed something to impress him with how much I loved him. Then like those cartoons where someone has a bright lightbulb over their head, I got an idea. Probably the only idea that would work. It was something I learned helping David getting ready for his play.
When I got to Scott’s house I saw Josh and David sitting on the front porch.
“What are you doing here, David?” I asked.
“Waiting for you to get here.”
I guess I looked surprised. Josh pointed his finger at me. “Tony, go inside and talk to Scott.”
“He’ll talk to me?”
“Once you tell him what we were doing,” David said. “I rode all the way here with him on the bus. I already told him what we were doing, but I’m not sure he believes me. You have to go in there and convince him.”
“You’re wasting time,” Josh said. He pointed at their front door. “Scoot. Go talk to Scott.”
When I walked in I saw Scott sitting on their couch in the living room. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest and was scowling at me. I walked up to him, grabbed his arms, and pulled him up so he was standing right in front of me. I put my arms around his shoulders and pulled him to me. I kissed him, a deep, long, intense kiss. After about fifteen seconds I pulled back and took a deep breath. His eyes were bugged out and he had to breathe in and out several times.
“Scott Sanderson, that was a real kiss, the kind of kiss I reserve for my only boyfriend. You.”
Then I leaned in and gave him the kind of peck-on-the-lips kiss I was practicing with David.
“Now, that was a stage kiss, the kind of stage kiss I was helping David practice for his play. And to prove there’s a play, here are the four tickets for next Saturday that David gave me for helping him. He’s in a play where he’s a gay kid and kisses another gay kid, their first kiss. They touch lips and hold the pose as the lights fade out at the end of the play. That’s what I was doing, helping him learn how to kiss a boy. He’s not gay, so he was freaked about it. I showed him that it’s the same as when he kisses his girlfriend. Do you understand now?”
He nodded a ‘yes.’
I pulled him to me and kissed him again, another ardent kiss. Then I rested my chin on his left shoulder and nibbled on his earlobe.
“I love you, Scott Sanderson. You’re my first and only boyfriend. We are BFFs, Boy Friends Forever.”
Then I grabbed his shoulders and held him at arm’s length. “I. Love. You. And only you,” I shouted at him. “I’ll love you forever. I don’t care if I’m living in Davis and you’re living in Hillview. This summer you can come and stay with me in Davis. The whole summer if you can. You’ll have your own room. And your own bathroom, with a urinal!” I said that part for his mom’s benefit; I saw her standing in the kitchen doorway listening to us. “We can swim every day. We can walk to Harper Junior High and shoot baskets and if there�s another guy we can play cut throat or if there are enough guys we can play 3 on 3. Bring your bike then we can ride to Davis High and I can show you the campus. We can ride to downtown Davis and see whatever there is to see. We can ride to Redrum Burger, which most people call Murder Burger, where they make the world’s biggest and messiest hamburgers and gigantic shakes. We can ride to the University of California at Davis and tour the campus. If you can stay long enough, we can even take a class at UC Davis. My dad works there and we can get in free or real cheap.
“But mostly we can be together. I love you, Scott, and I want us to be together.”
He grabbed my shoulders and held me at arm’s length. “I love you too, Tony. Josh made me listen to David who explained how you were helping him be comfortable kissing a boy so he wouldn’t botch it on stage. You told me the exact same story so I know it’s true. I’m sorry I misunderstood. I’m sorry I didn’t let you explain.”
He pulled us together and we kissed. We broke it off when we heard applause. Scott’s mom was still standing there, and she was clapping her hands. “Scott, didn’t I tell you that Tony loves you and only you?”
“Yes, Mom, you told me. And so did Josh. And so did David. But what was most important, so did Tony.” Then he pulled us together for another kiss.
We heard Josh say, “Get a room!” and we laughed. As if we could do that with Scott’s mom standing right there watching us. Also, you can’t kiss when you’re laughing. It felt good when we kissed, and it felt good when we were laughing together. We stood looking in each other’s eyes. Oh, how I loved this boy!
That's when I realized that this was the beginning of a time when it all would go right.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2015 by Colin Kelly (colinian). They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted. Original image is Copyright © stock.xchng. 'I Dreamed a Dream' lyrics from Les Misérables are Copyright © 2012 Cameron Mackintosh Overseas Limited.
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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don’t want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren’t supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!