Reorientation by Colin Kelly

Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?

Chapter 17 — Jason's Photography Project      Story Index >>

“Jase, do you really think we should come out to others at school?” Ron turned and looked across the table at Doug and Mike. “How about you two? There are all kinds of rumors floating around at school, so how are you going to tell people? Will you wait until they ask you? Or when you see people you know will you tell them that the rumors are true and you two are gay?” Ron grinned, “Or will you stand up in front of each of your classes tomorrow and make a big announcement that you’re gay?”

“Jeez, Ron, get real,” Mike complained. “We won’t announce anything. It’s only if someone asks then we’ll tell them ‘yes’. We’re going to try to keep the noise level at the low end of the scale.”

“No one knows for sure except the team and Coach Larsen,” Doug added. “We decided not to tell anyone until we came out when Mike finally turned sixteen.”

“What about the rumors?” Marcus asked.

Mike shook his head. “There’ll always be rumors. Guys promised they weren’t going to tell anyone and next thing you know a guy on the team told his girlfriend, in complete confidence, of course. She blabbed it to her best friend, in complete confidence, of course. Her best friend told her boyfriend, in confidence, and so on and so on and so on, and pretty soon half the school knew about it.”

“Or thought they did,” Marcus added.

“So what are you going to do?” Jason wanted to know. “It will help us decide what to do and how and when we should do it.”

Doug shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. We’re going to just go to school and see what happens. We’d appreciate it if you three didn’t say anything, okay?”

Ron ran his fingers across his lips. “Our lips are sealed. Right, Jase, Marcus?” Jason and Marcus both nodded their heads in agreement.

Ron thought of a question he wanted to ask Doug and Mike. “We’ll try to watch what happens to you tomorrow. Is it okay if we see you in the hall or at lunch that we talk to you?”

“Sure,” Doug said, “why not?”

“I don’t know, I mean you guys are sophomores and Jase and I are freshmen. Usually sophomores don’t talk to freshmen.”

Mike shook his head. “That’s just wrong. Why wouldn’t sophomores talk to freshmen? We go to the same school, we’re usually only a year older than you, so there’s no big deal about us talking to each other, at least as far as I’m concerned. And Doug too, right?” Mike looked at Doug who nodded and said, “Yup. No problema for me, either.”

“Really?” Ron asked. “That’s cool. Anyway, I hope everything is okay for you guys. And seriously, if you need help let us know.” He turned and looked at Jason, then back to Mike. “What’s your cell number? I’ll text my cell number to you.”

They made the exchange, and Mike had a question.

“If I text you how are you going to look at the message? If you get caught using your cell the teacher will take it away from you until after school’s over for the day.”

“My phone is set on vibrate, and it really does vibrate. I’ll check it as soon as I can. I’m pretty sneaky about looking at a text message.”

“Where do you keep your phone so you know it’s vibrating?” Marcus asked.

“My left pant pocket.”

“Is it fun for you when it vibrates?”

“What do you mean…” It took Ron a couple seconds, but he caught on when the other guys started laughing. “Oh, that is so bad, Marcus!”

“What? I don’t understand,” Marcus said, looking at Ron like he really didn’t grasp the meaning of what Ron shouted. He tried to keep from laughing along with the others, but couldn’t hold it back.

Ron turned away, feigning disgust but he ended up laughing as well. “Good one, guys. Of course, you realize that I’ll get my revenge. And when it happens you won’t know that it was me who wreaked it on you.”

Mike stared at Ron. “What’s ‘wreaked’ mean?”

“It means inflicted or administered.”

“Where do you learn this stuff?”

“Lemme think.” Ron held his chin in one hand for a couple seconds. Oh, yeah, now I remember. It’s a class called English I. Uh huh, I’m sure that’s the class.”

“Dufus!” was Mike’s rejoinder.

The delivery of their drinks and pastries interrupted any further commentary by Ron. For the next few minutes they concentrated on their snacks and talked about the next basketball game, with Cathedral. That week it had been scheduled on a Saturday afternoon, and neither Doug nor Mike had an explanation why a weekend day would have been selected.

“Guys,” Marcus said, “it’s obvious. Next week is spring break so they wouldn’t want to schedule a game when everyone in the school is taking it easy. Having it on a Saturday means more kids will go to the game. It also means that the team only has to use one day of their spring break for practice, next Friday.”

Everyone agreed that Marcus’ conclusion seemed to be right on.

Jason got the group back on the subject of coming out at school.

“So, guys, do you have any advice about when Ron and I should come out and let our friends know that we’re boyfriends?”

“I’d do it just like Doug and Mike are going to do it, just tell people that you’re boyfriends if anyone asks,” Marcus suggested.

Doug and Mike agreed, and since they’d arrived at a consensuses Jason and Ron agreed that would be the best approach for them as well.

“At least we don’t have to worry about a lot of rumors,” Jason said, “It’s going to be a lot harder for you guys with the rumor mill going at full blast.”

“Until there’s something else to gossip about,” Doug suggested, “but maybe that’s wishful thinking. Whatever.”

“Hey,” Ron said, “not to change the subject but to bend it a different way…” Jason and Marcus, used to Ron’s puns, groaned. “…and without interruptions, do you guys know that Jayden and Todd are boyfriends and out at school?”

“Who are Jayden and Todd?” Mike asked.

Doug answered, “That’s Jayden Allen, he’s on the JV football team, and Todd Brooks, he should come out for basketball. He’s that tall red haired guy in our PE period. He’s in the weight training class. And yes, we know about them ‘cause they’re out and they told everyone at the last GSA meeting.”

“Okay,” Mike added, “now I know who you mean. Jayden is that really built black guy. He’s super nice, he has second period in the room next to mine and we’ve talked while we waited for the first period classes to clear out. He’s going out for the varsity next year.”

Ron grinned. “You answered my question and added a lot of additional information, some of which I didn’t know like Jayden going out for varsity football. That’s cool.”

“Yeah, but what I want is Todd to come out for basketball. I mean, the guy’s fourteen and he’s already six foot three. We could sure use him even if he doesn’t get any taller,” Doug added.

Jason was curious. “So he doesn’t want to play basketball or there’s some other reason? Seems to me that him being gay and out shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“I know, I know! It frustrates me because we talk to him and the only thing he says is ‘maybe’ and then he seems to drop it. Mike and I are going to talk to Coach Larsen and see if he has any ideas.”

“Maybe he isn’t a basketball player,” Marcus added.

“That’s not it. We see him playing in pickup games and he’s great. He can jump, right Doug?” Doug nodded and Mike continued, “He can shoot, especially at the basket when he’s surrounded, he’s good on defense, his passes are real accurate, and he can dribble all the way from one end of the court to the other without getting the ball stripped.”

“I’ll be glad to talk to him,” Marcus offered.

“Would you? That’s great,” Doug replied.

“Todd and Jayden sat at our table at lunch today. If Todd’s there tomorrow I’ll ask him about it. I’ll figure out how to word what I’m going to say to him.”

Mike told Marcus, “If you say something as good as what you write in Eagles’ Lair you’ll have him convinced in no time at all.”

Marcus blushed and looked away from Mike because of the compliment. Jason noticed, and wondered why Marcus would blush when someone said something nice about what he wrote. He suddenly realized that he was the same as Marcus, blushing and looking away from the person complimenting him. ‘I’ve got to stop doing that,’ he thought. ‘It’s stupid. If someone compliments me I’m going to smile and say thanks.’ He noticed that Marcus hadn’t thanked Mike for his compliment and decided to do something about that. He poked Marcus in the arm.

Marcus turned to Jason. “What?”

Jason whispered, “You should say thanks to Mike for his compliment about your writing.”

Marcus sat back and stared at Jason for a few seconds, then looked across the table at Mike. “Hey, thanks for the compliment about my writing, Mike.”

Mike grinned. “No problema, Marcus. What I said is one hundred percent the truth.”

Marcus turned to Jason, smiled, and winked showing he appreciated Jason’s nudge.

Ron checked his watch. “Hey guys, I gotta get going. My mom isn’t appreciative if I’m late for dinner. You too, Jase. Let’s truck!”

The others agreed that they had to get home, so everyone left.

On their way home Ron pestered Jason about telling their folks that they were out at school.

“But my folks don’t know we’re boyfriends,” Jason argued.

“Come on, they’ve been talking with my folks. I’ll bet they know already.”

“But maybe they don’t. It’s risky. Mom might go back to the way she was when I told them that I’m gay. Or maybe she’ll tell me I can’t see you anymore.”

“That’s not going to happen. There’s too much water under the bridge. Get over it. Your folks know you’re gay, Jen and Thea know that we’re gay and that we’re boyfriends, a bunch of guys at school know that we’re gay and that we’re boyfriends, my folks know that we’re gay and that we’re boyfriends, it’s time to tell your folks.”

Jason took a deep breath and let it out noisily.

“Okay, you’re right, it’s time for me to tell them. Not tonight, though. I want to get my homework finished since we’re on Spring Break next week. Also, I need to review my photography project and get ready to print the copies I need to turn in tomorrow, including one for me and for you, one for my folks, and one for the mall cop who caught me taking pictures on the top floor of the parking structure; I promised him a printed copy and I want to drop it off tomorrow after school. Anyway, with all that stuff to do I don’t want any distractions.”

Jason and Ron chatted about what they might do over Spring Break, and decided that if the warm weather held up, unusual for April, they would go on a hike one day; and sleep late whenever they could get away with it. They said goodbye when they got to Ron’s house, then Jason continued home.

“Hi, Mom. I’m home!” Jason called out after he entered the house.

“Hi, Jase. Would you like a snack?”

“Sure,” he said as he walked into the kitchen. “I’ll take my stuff upstairs and change first. I’ll be back in five.”

“Hold on! What would you like?”

“Chips and salsa. And one of these little burritos?”

“Okay, that should tide you over until dinner. We’re going to be eating a little later than usual. Your dad is going to BuyMart to buy a new printer for his office. We’ll give the other one to Thea.”

“That’s a great idea. Sometimes she asks me to print something for her that’s in color because hers won’t print with correct colors. Did you tell her yet?”

“Yes, and she’s delighted. We’ll donate her current printer to the thrift shop and mark it that it only prints black and white.”

“Cool. I’ll be back in a few.”

With that Jason went upstairs and Betty pulled out a frozen burrito and put it in the microwave to thaw then into the toaster oven so it would get crisp on the outside. She poured about a cup of salsa into a bowl and put it, a bag of tortilla chips, and a can of diet root beer on the table.

“Smells good,” Jason said as he returned to the kitchen. He sat at the table and began eating chips and salsa.

“Here’s your burrito. Be careful, the cheese inside is melted and will be very hot.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

After Jason had eaten about half his snack, Betty sat down at the table with a glass of iced coffee.

“How was your GSA meeting today?”

“Very interesting. There must have been eighty kids there. Jen and Tom came too. They had a great speaker, the Community Services Officer from the Police Department. He talked about how important it is to report bullying and abuse no matter where it happens, including at school and away from school, and even at home. He said there are a lot of kids who are abused at home because they are gay, or because their parents are drunks, that sort of thing. He also talked about the Police Department’s outreach program for LGBT kids. This is a place where kids can go if they’re being abused or bullied away from school and at home. He also talked about how they help gay kids who are in the foster system and are mistreated, or are homeless.”

“There are homeless kids right here, in Contra Costa County? I wouldn’t have thought that would happen in our area.”

“He said that right here in our town there are about a hundred fifty homeless kids who are out there on their own. They sleep in culverts and in back of businesses, especially restaurants because they can raid the dumpsters for food to eat. That’s so gross, and so sad that’s what these are homeless kids have to do to survive. He said about half of these homeless kids go to school, mainly because that’s where they can get breakfast and lunch for free. For some of them that’s all they get to eat all day. This doesn’t include the kids who live with their family in a car or a van.”

“Jase, I’m stunned about what you’re telling me. I wish I’d been there to hear his talk. It makes me want to do something. No child should be going through what you’ve described.”

“It makes me realize how lucky Jen and Thea and I are, living in a nice home, plenty to eat, parents that love us.” With that, Jason got up and walked around the table and hugged his mother. After she kissed him on the forehead he sat back down.

Jason realized that he’d told his mother about the GSA meeting, even though he and Ron had decided to withhold that information until their parents told them about the PFLAG meeting. Well, as Ron would say, that’s water under the bridge. He decided to bring up their dinner at Prima and the PFLAG meeting tonight.

“I assume Thea’s home. Is Jen home yet?”

“They are both home, upstairs doing their homework. Speaking of homework, what do you have to do tonight?”

“Geometry problems, but I did about half of them in class. Let’s see, a translation for Spanish, and a new chapter to read in World History and Geography. Speaking of geography, I have a question for you. Do you know what country is directly north of Poland?”

“Hmm… it’s one of those little countries, Lithuania or Estonia… I can’t remember the name of the other one.”

“The other one is Latvia. But it’s not any of those. It’s a part of Russia, the Kaliningrad Oblast, and the city of Kaliningrad is the capital.”

“Hmm. It must have been carved out at the end of the Second World War.”

“Yup, you win the kewpie doll. But since I don’t have one…” Jason started to laugh.

“Alright, Mister Smarty Pants, what’s an oblast?”

“I know that one. An oblast is an administrative district, not quite like a U.S. state but more than a county. They were part of the old Soviet Union and were sort of left over when the U.S.S.R change to Russia.”

“Okay, you can have your kewpie doll back.” Betty grinned.

Jason let out a deep breath and picked up his plate and the now-empty bowl that had been full of salsa, and put them in the dishwasher. He folded up the top of the tortilla chip bag and put a clip on it and returned it to the pantry.

“I’m heading upstairs to do my homework and check my photography project to make sure I have everything to bring to school tomorrow. See you later, Mom.”

“Alright, see you later too, Jase.”

Jason decided to do his homework first, and then check his photography project. His geometry homework only took fifteen minutes; the Spanish translation took a half hour but then he spent another ten minutes verifying that he hadn’t made any mistakes. The World History and Geography chapter turned out to be longer than he’d expected, but easy to read with little to remember that he didn’t already know.

He pulled out the eight by ten of the poster for his photography project and pinned it to the corkboard above his desk. ‘Man,’ he thought, ‘this looks really great. If this isn’t an A grade, I don’t know what is.’ He still had to print four copies on glossy photo paper at school tomorrow. One to turn in; one for Charlie Philips, the security guard at the garage; one for his bedroom; and one for his folks. He planned to go in early so he could use the printer. He’d already asked for and been given five eleven by seventeen sheets of photo paper from Mr. Hunter. He knew how to use the printer from one of the PC’s in the lab. He made sure that he had his flash drive with the Photoshop file. He looked at the little flash drive, and decided to copy the image to another flash drive, just in case. He found a sixteen gigabyte drive in his desk, checked that it didn’t have any files he wanted to keep, reformatted it, and copied the original file from his PC. He unpinned the eight by ten and put it and the flash drives in a pouch on the front of his backpack and zipped it closed.

Jason sat back and closed his eyes. He thought about everything that had happened over the past couple weeks. He smiled, thinking about Ron.

“What’cha thinking about, big brother?”

Jason turned and grinned at Thea. She stood in the doorway to his room looking at him.

“My photography project. I’m going to print my poster tomorrow morning. Speaking of printing, I hear that you’re going to inherit the printer from Dad’s office. That’s cool. It’s a lot better printer than the one you have now.”

“I know! I am so hyped! I hate my printer. It’s a piece of c-r-a-p. And I won’t have to come in and ask you to print things I need in color any more.”

“You know, Dad is getting an even better printer, one that prints double-sided automatically.”

“I don’t care about that. In my classes the teachers want our stuff printed on one side only. Not very eco, but that’s what they want.”

“Most of my teachers want one sided printouts too. I guess it makes grading easier, and when they use red marker to highlight all of our mistakes it doesn’t soak through the paper and get confused with stuff that’s on the other side.”

“Yeah, I can see that. Of course, I never get any red marks on my papers.” Thea grinned.

“Yeah, sure, as if!” Jason laughed, and Thea joined him.

“Did you like the GSA meeting?”

“Yeah, a lot. There were around eighty kids there, and they had the Community Services Officer from the Police Department as the speaker. He talked about bullying and abuse, about homeless kids… did you know that there are over a hundred and fifty kids who are homeless and on their own right here in town? It made me sad to think about those kids. He told us that about half of them go to school, mainly because they get breakfast and lunch and that might be the only thing they get to eat all day. The rest live in culverts under the highways or they hide out in back of restaurants so they can scavenge for food in the dumpsters.”

Thea looked at Jason and he could see that there were tears in the corners of her eyes. “We need to have a project to help them, Jase. Kids need a safe place to live and enough food to eat. I’m going to talk to Mrs. Callahan, my Social Studies teacher, and see what we can start at school. You ought to start something like that at Hillcrest.”

“You know, you’re right. There’s a Community Liaison Officer at school, I’ll talk to her. I’ll talk it up with the GSA too, since we had the presentation it could be great publicity for the club to start a project like this. We need to talk to Jen about it, too. She might have some good ideas about how to make this work.”

At that point they heard the garage door opening, and they went downstairs to see the new printer their Dad bought for his office.


The next morning Jason left for school an hour early. He wanted to get to the Photography Lab and print his posters before anyone else. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Ron walking about a block ahead of him. He jogged to catch up, and finally called out “Ron!”

Ron turned around and stopped when he saw Jason. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Why would Jase be going to school so early? He hadn’t had a chance to tell Jase that he planned to find out about a tutor for Algebra I.

Jason caught up, and they started walking to the high school.

“What are you going to school so early for, Ron?”

“I’m meeting with Ms. Waring, my Algebra teacher. She teaches the Algebra II make-up class during period zero. She said I should come by this morning to talk about finding a tutor for me. Why are you going to school so early?”

“I need to print the posters for my Photography project. I’m printing four of them, one to turn in, one for that security guard from the parking structure, and two for me.”

“I don’t get one?” Ron put on a pouty face.

“That’s stupid of me. You’re the one that gave me such good advice about laying out my pix. I have five sheets of eleven by seventeen photo paper, so I’ll print five copies, and one will be for you.”

“Cool. And thanks. I’ll pin it on my bedroom wall, right where I can see it the best from my bed.”

Jason grinned. “Jeez, you always have sex on your mind, don’t you!”

“You are so bad, Jase. I wasn’t thinking about anything like that… well, maybe I was but just a little, ‘cause you’re so, you know, little down there.” Ron stuck his tongue out at Jason.

“We’ll have a measuring contest and see about who’s little!” Jason retorted.

“And now who has sex on their mind, ‘eh?”

“You, of course, Mr. Ronald ‘all I think about is sex’ Cantham.”

Their bantering continued until they got to the Hillcrest High School campus.

“I’ll see you later, Ron.”

“See ya, Jase. Hey, neither of us is going to have a full period zero. I’ll meet you in the quad at the Snack Shop. We can grab something to tide us over until morning break.”

“Okay. Later, Ron.”

With that, they headed to their separate sections of the campus.

Jason had to wait a few minutes until Mr. Hunter arrived at the Photography Lab.

“Morning, Mr. Hunter. I’m here to print my posters.”

“Good morning, Jason. Looks like you’ll have the printer all to yourself, at least for a while. Come on in.”

Jason went directly to the PC that interfaced to the high-end Epson graphics printer. He powered it on and waited for Windows to start up. That only took a few seconds; the PC had an SSD, a Solid State Drive, for the Windows 7 operating system and the application programs, and it loaded fast. Jason pulled out his flash drive and plugged it in. Windows recognized it, and Jason double-clicked on the file name. His poster image opened in Photoshop CS5.

Jason checked that the printer had some eleven by seventeen plain paper in the input bin, powered on the printer, and went back to the PC. As soon as the printer completed its startup preparation, Jason printed a draft copy of his poster to check positioning. It looked perfect. He removed the plain paper and loaded his five sheets of photo paper. He went back to the PC and printed one copy. No use ruining several sheets of photo paper if something didn’t come out right. Like the photo paper being upside down.

The first copy came out absolutely perfect. Jason looked at it with a magnifier and grinned. He set the print aside to dry and loaded and printed the other four copies. While they printed Mr. Hunter walked over and looked at the first copy Jason had printed. He looked at the print for several seconds, then looked at Jason and smiled.

“Jason, this is excellent. No, it’s better than excellent. How did you get all of these images lined up like this?” He examined the image with the magnifier. “I can’t tell you how impressed I am. This is A-plus work. This is college-level work. I love it. I love the faint image of that sculpture from the library. It’s just barely visible, it doesn’t distract from the images, yet it stands out enough that the viewer can tell what it is.” He looked at Jason. “This isn’t college level work. This is professional level work. Is it okay if I print another copy to keep for myself? I know my wife will love it. She’s on the Library Board of Trustees.”

Jason knew that he was blushing, but remembering the incident with Marcus yesterday he didn’t look away. He looked right at Mr. Hunter and smiled. “Thank you. I put a lot of time and work to get the images I needed and to put them all together. I’m glad that you like it. And you can print a copy for yourself and, if you want, one for your wife, too.”

When all the prints were finished Jason started to put his copies into the large manila envelope that came with the photo paper.

“Wait! Don’t put those in that manila envelope. Let me get you a portfolio that will protect them better.” Mr. Hunter went into the storage closet and returned with a professional looking black portfolio that had a carrying strap, and was the right size for his poster prints. He gave it to Jason.

“Wow. Thank you, Mr. Hunter.”

“You’re very welcome, Mr. Phillips.” Mr. Hunter smiled as Jason put all but one of the prints into the portfolio and closed the Velcro clasps. Jason wrote ‘Charlie Phillips’ in large letters with a black marker on the manila envelope, his own name, address, and phone number in the upper left corner, and put the other print into the envelope. He saw that Mr. Hunter looked curiously at what he’d just done.

“You might be wondering what this is for,” Jason pointed to the envelope. “I started taking the head shots at the Main Street parking garage and a security guard came up and said I’d need a city permit to take pictures. I talked him into letting me stick around for about a half hour, which was very nice of him. He wanted to see my pictures, so I used the view feature on my camera and showed him some of the head shots I’d taken. Then I asked him if he’d like a copy of the poster. He seemed real surprised, and said yes. I asked him for his name and how to get the poster to him. It turned out that his name is Charlie Phillips.” Jason laughed. “I told him we might be related, and he told me he didn’t think so since I have reddish blonde hair and freckles and he’s African-American. By doing that I got enough time to take my pictures and turned the security guard into a friend. I’m going to drop it off for him at his company’s office after school today.”

“Jason, I’d like it if you’d tell that story when you show your poster in class today. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure. I think it’s a cool story. And I’ll bet it’ll blow Mr. Phillips’ socks off when he sees that I remembered and left a copy of the poster for him. Oh, yeah, should I leave my class copy with you now?”

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea. I have a folder for it.”

Mr. Hunter went back to the storeroom and returned with a stack of large file folders. He found one with Jason’s name, and Jason handed him a poster and the extra flash drive he brought to school. Except for telling the class how he took the pictures and put them together using Photoshop, he had completed his poster project. He peeked into his portfolio. There were three copies; one for Ron, one for his folks, and one to put on the wall in his bedroom, and the envelope with the poster for Charlie Phillips, the guard.

“Can I leave my portfolio here until after seventh period? I’ll come back and pick it up then.”

“Sure, that’s fine, Jason. Put a label with your name on it, then set it inside the storeroom.” Mr. Hunter looked up. “Well, it looks like I finally have another student who wants to print their poster.”

Jason looked around and saw Marcus.

“Hey, Marcus. Long time no see!”

“What, maybe fourteen hours or something like that?” Marcus said, and they both laughed. “You get yours printed, Jase?”

“Uh huh. It’s a done deal. I’m about to split and see if I can find Ron. He’s probably in the quad grabbing something to eat.” Jason sat down at the PC, exited Photoshop, and ejected his flash drive. “I’ll see you first period, Marcus. See you sixth period, Mr. Hunter.”

As Jason walked across campus to the Quad he reflected on his morning, similar to the way yesterday afternoon when he’d reflected on the past couple weeks. He felt that his life couldn’t be better. Not bad for a gay kid in the process of coming out of the closet. And that’s a gay kid with a boyfriend. Nope, not bad at all.


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