Alexander's New Friend (by Grant Bentley)

Alexander’s New Friend

By Grant Bentley

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

Outward appearances are not always as they seem.

I had finally finished handing out treats to countless little people and left the house. In a few minutes I was knocking on an all too familiar front door and being greeted by Jakes mom, or Alice in Wonderland, I think.

“Jake’s in his room getting changed,” she announced.

“Thanks,” I responded as I headed down the hall to his room.

“You survived. But where’s my treat?” he said as I entered his room.

“Just shut up and kiss me, dickhead. That’s the only treat you’re getting from me.” I said, laughing.

And kiss me he did. Instantly the hours of handing out candy to little people were forgotten.

To my surprise, laying across the foot of his bed was a Captain Barbossa costume…I think. Leave it to Jake to make sure I was prepared. A half hour of changing into Captain Barbossa and Jake changing into Jack Sparrow, of course, and we were on our way to Karen’s.

“Hmm, you two look a lot alike. If I can’t figure out who you are, you don’t get in,” were the first words I heard as Karen answered the door with big grin on her face.

“Okay, let me see,” She said trying to look all serious. “You’re the cute one, so you must be Jack Sparrow,” she said to Jake. “And, you’re the official yet scoundrel type. You must be Captain Bar-whatever,” she said to me.

“Barbossa. Very good,” I replied, “But scoundrel?”

“Well knowing you two it has to be Pirates of the Caribbean,” she said, “And we can’t have two Jack Sparrows. That would be like incest or something. Ewww. So you have to be whats-his-name.”

“Barbossa, and you’re worse than any of the guys,” I said laughing, “Don’t even think about going there.”

“Spoilsport,” she said faking a pout.

“So, where’s the food? Jake’s hungry,” I responded with a grin.

“That’s what I love about you,” she said as she pinched my cheek, “Always thinking of others.”

In no time, we were standing in the rec room in the basement with a glass of punch and every kind of square or cookie you could imagine set out before us. There must have been forty people there including her mom and dad and a couple of other parents. The music was blasting and half the couples were in the middle of the room dancing. After munching on a couple of squares, Jake took my hand and led me into the middle of the floor. We must have danced for an hour straight before we stopped for some more punch. It was definitely the best Halloween I could remember. The best part was we knew almost everyone and almost everyone knew and accepted us. No one gave us a second glance. Well almost no one. Alexander never misses a good party and he was there obviously having a good time as Robin Hood. Except when he looked at us. Then his ‘having the time of my life’ grin momentarily turned into the ‘why don’t you drop dead’ glare. But it was nothing new and never lasted long so it didn’t bother us. As soon as he turned away he was back to his happy, joking, self again.

As we were sipping on our punch and sampling a few more of the squares and cookies, someone dressed as Darth Vader, came over and stood beside us. We both smiled at him and said, “Hi.” Of course we couldn’t tell if he smiled back but he did say, “Hi.”

After a few minutes of fidgeting around, he turned to Jake and said as quietly as he could, considering the volume of the music, “You guys are gay, right?”

Jake just smiled at him and said, “Yeah we are.”

“Cool,” he responded, “I never met any other gay guys before.”

We both picked up on the word ‘other’ immediately.

“So you from around here?” I asked.

“I just moved here last week,” he replied, “Karen’s my cousin.”

We also both picked up on the ‘I’ just moved here, not ‘we’ just moved here.

“I see you met my cousin, Rio,” Karen said as she suddenly appeared beside us.

“Well we met his Star Wars persona,” I said laughing.

“Come on,” she said grabbing my hand a pulling me towards the stairs with Jake and Rio right behind us.

As soon as we got to the kitchen, Rio removed his helmet or whatever to expose the cutest face I have ever seen, besides Jake’s that is. Blond hair, brilliant blue eyes, a tiny little nose covered in freckles, the sweetest little shy smile, and dimples a mile deep.

“This,” she announced to us proudly, “is my cousin Rio. He’s going to be living with us from now on.”

“Hi Rio,” we both replied as we each shook his hand.

“These,” she announced to Rio proudly, “are my two best friends and brothers by choice, Jake and Ian.”

“Hi,” he said with that shy little grin of his.

“I’ll just leave you guys to talk,” she said grinning, and disappeared into the basement.

“She do that often?” Rio asked.

“What?” I asked, “Set you up and then disappear?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Yep, so you better get used to it,” Jake replied.

“So,” I said hesitatingly, “You asked us if we were gay. I’m guessing there was a reason for that.”

“Uh…yeah,” he replied.

“Let me guess,” I responded, “You’re living with Karen and her folks now. So…you came out and things at home aren’t good.”

He just looked at me for a few seconds before he replied, “Uh, kinda, yeah. Dad found some pics on my computer and freaked.”

“I’m sorry,” Jake remarked.

“Don’t be,” Rio said, “Living up north was the shits. I was scared all the time, you know, since I figured it out. Karen is awesome and so are Uncle Gene and Aunt Beth. I can be who I am and nobody cares. And now I met you guys. I’m gonna love it down here. They even have a GSA at school here and there’s a meeting next Thursday and I’m going. It’s gonna be so cool.”

“Well we’ll see you there then,” Jake said with a grin, Ian’s the president and I’m the vice-president.”

“Even cooler,” he said laughing, “I’ll have an ‘in’ with the GSA royalty.”

“Royalty we’re not,” I said laughing, “But we’ll make sure everyone knows you’re our friend. How’s that?”

“It’s gonna be better living here than I thought,” he said with a grin, “Thanks guys.”

The three of us chatted about a lot of things, being gay being one of them, until we decided we needed more punch, more food, and more dancing. Rio put his helmet back on and we headed back downstairs. Rio turned out to be a riot not to mention he turned out to be killer on the dance floor. By the time the evening was over we were both wiped out from dancing and laughing so hard our sides hurt. We made our way home via Jake’s. After spending some time saying good night, I wandered the rest of the way home with a smile glued to my face. This had been the best Halloween in years. Life was good…no, it was better then good, it was excellent.

Then about 4:30 a.m. all hell broke loose across the street and it became a Halloween we’d never forget. A police car, a fire truck, and an ambulance all pulled up within minutes of each other with sirens blaring. I think the whole neighbourhood was standing out on their front lawns in housecoats and pyjamas twenty seconds later. Within five minutes someone was wheeled out of the house on a stretcher, loaded into the ambulance, and they were gone. The fire truck left right after, but the police stayed for about ten minutes talking to Mr. and Mrs. Langford. Since it was just Alexander and his mom and dad living there, it was pretty obvious that something had happened to Alexander. As soon as the police were gone they backed out of their driveway and drove off in the direction the ambulance had taken. Mom and Dad and Mr. and Mrs. Langford were very good friends, so Mom and Dad followed them to the hospital to lend support.

Of course, it didn’t take the rumour mill long to get going. As my brother and I stood on the sidewalk talking about what might have happened to Alexander, we heard stories starting with he fell down the stairs sleepwalking to ones bordering on the ridiculous. Well none of the rumours were true, which is not unusual. We learned the truth a few hours later when Mom and Dad got home. The truth is, his father had to go to the bathroom and found Alexander in the bathtub, unconscious in a pool of his own blood with his left wrist slashed.

When we found out what he had done, couldn’t believe it. “Why?” we asked ourselves. Alexander had always been a happy-go-lucky kinda guy. He was into sports and was a star player on the school’s Freshman football team. He knew more jokes than most people could ever remember and nothing seemed to phase him. He didn’t seem to have a care in the world and everyone either liked him or wanted to be like him. Everyone heterosexual that is. Those of us not blessed with that particular orientation saw him more as an adversary. He wasn’t a bully, not in a physical or even verbal sense, but he always had that ‘why don’t you drop dead’ look in his eyes whenever he looked at anyone gay. That didn’t make me feel less concerned about what he had done or for his recovery though. I even thought of going to see him, but all things considered, decided it wouldn’t have been a good idea.

He had lost a lot of blood and no one actually knew how long he had been in the tub. His heart was still beating when the paramedics got to him but very weakly. He was in intensive care for a day as the doctors and everyone were waiting to see if he woke up, would his brain or any organs have been starved of oxygen long enough to be damaged. Thankfully his dad had found him in time and he did wake up and there didn’t seem to be any damage to his brain or any of his other organs. But there was definitely damage to his carefree personality. He wouldn’t talk to anyone, not even his parents. Even after he was moved to a private room, he still wouldn’t talk to anyone. The hospital put him on suicide watch and assigned him a crisis counsellor, but he wouldn’t say a word to him either.

Monday came around and we were back in school. Of course it was bedlam the first twenty minutes until homeroom. Each homeroom had a counsellor as well as the homeroom teacher. Their first task was clear up all the insane rumours and their second was to be there to help any kids who needed support. Since we were Juniors and Alexander was a Freshman, few of us knew him all that well other than he was on the football team. The counsellor didn’t stay with us long and left for a Freshman homeroom where she felt she was probably needed more.

After a rather extended homeroom, it seemed a bit quieter in the halls as we made our way to our first class of the day. When our lunch break rolled around, things seemed to have almost settled back to normal. We were sitting discussing what everyone else was discussing, Alexander, when Rio came over and asked if he could join us. Of course we said yes and introduced him to our friends, John, Scott, Roy, and Graham.

As we were talking about how unusual it seemed that Alexander could have been suicidal, all things considered, Rio piped up, “It’s because he’s gay and he can’t deal with it.”

Everyone stopped talking and looked at Rio. He just glanced at everyone and kept on eating.

“No way,” Roy exclaimed, “He hated gays.”

“Yeah I know, Karen told me,” Rio replied, “He hated gays…so he hated himself. Think about it.”

“No way,” Scott stated.

“That just seems too weird,” Roy said.

“Yeah but like Rio said, if you think about it, it almost makes sense,” John remarked, “The guy had it all, looks, athletics, keen sense of humour, popularity. It’s like how could he possibly be suicidal?”

“Unless he was in the closet and scared shitless of being found out for the last three or four years and couldn’t take it anymore,” Rio added.


After lunch, Rio decided to check out the sports display by the office. Everyone, including him, had been talking about Alexander, and he didn’t even know what he looked like. When he saw the picture of the football team, he followed the names until he came to Alexander’s…front row, third from the left. As soon as he looked at Alexander’s face in the picture he thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve gotta get to know this guy…the smile’s huge, but his eyes are empty.’ No one else would ever have noticed it, but Rio did. Maybe because he had seen it in his own eyes in the mirror or in recent pictures.

Rio became determined that there had to be a way to see Alexander. He spent most of the afternoon planning on how to get to him and what he was going to do when he did. Obviously, he had to find out what room he was in at the hospital and if he was allowed visitors. Jake or I would be his source for that information for that. I would know from my parents. But, what would his next move be? Get Jake and me to go with him? Go with my parents? Approach Alexander’s parents and go with them? No. None of those options would allow him to confront Alexander and confrontation is what Alexander needed. At least that’s what Rio hoped, and that would only work if he went alone.

So the next day, information in hand, Rio walked over to the hospital and simply walked into Alexander’s room, across the room to his bed, and just stood there looking him directly in the eyes. Alexander looked back for a few seconds and then turned to face the wall wondering who the hell this kid was.

After a few minutes, Rio simply said, “Being gay can be a real bitch sometimes, can’t it? Especially if you can’t deal with it.”

Alexander slowly turned his head back towards Rio and uttered his first words in five days, “Fuck you faggot,” he said clenching his teeth in anger.

“Do you really want to keep playing the game?” Rio calmly asked, “It almost killed you once.”

“Fuck you,” Alexander exclaimed just as angrily, but a bit louder this time, “What the fuck do you know about anything?”

“I spent three years being scared shitless before my old man kicked me out,” Rio stated, “That’s what I know. How many years have you been scared shitless?”

“Fuck you and get out of my room before I call a nurse and have you kicked out,” was Alexander’s angry reply.

“Okay, but there are way worse things than being gay,” Rio said as he turned to leave the room. Then looking back as he reached the door he said, “And being dead is one of them.”

After Rio left, Alexander just lay there staring at the ceiling trying desperately to keep his mind blank. But it didn’t work. Tears started to flow as he questioned, ‘Who the friggin’ hell is this kid?’ He rolled onto his side facing away from the door and concentrated on blanking his mind of all thoughts surrounding Rio’s visit. He went to the bathroom to dry his eyes and splash some cold water on his face. As he was coming out of the bathroom, his mom and dad arrived to see him. Once again, he took the silent route, climbed back into bed and pretended they weren’t there. The next morning the counsellor came to see him and he got the same treatment…silence. The doctor, counsellor, and his parents were beginning to think he would have to be admitted to the mental health ward where they had the skills to work with kids in such a depressed state.

At exactly the same time the next day, Rio walked into his room, crossed the room to his bed, and just stood there looking him directly in the eyes again. At this point, Alexander was starting to wonder if he was for real. He had never seen this kid before in his life yet the kid seemed to know him. This time Alexander didn’t turn away. He returned Rio’s stare.

After a minute or two, Rio smiled and said, “In a better mood today?”

For some reason, unknown to him, Alexander didn’t want to tell him to fuck off like he had last time, but couldn’t think of anything to say so he just kept staring back at Rio.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Rio said still smiling.

Finally Alexander asked, “Who the hell are you and why are you here?”

“I’m Rio,” Rio replied, “And I’m here to help you accept yourself and be proud of who you are.”

“Fuck that,” Alexander snapped, “Ain’t gonna happen…ever.”

“So you are gay then,” Rio countered.

Alexander went back to staring and wondering, ‘What the hell? Who is this kid? Fuck!’ before saying, “Leave me alone.”

“Okay I don’t want to get yelled at again, so I’ll go,” Rio said as he turned and walked out the door.

Now Alexander was really wondering if he was losing his sanity…never mind who the kid was…this whole scene was insane. Why did this kid, if he was for real, give a flying fuck that he was gay? At that thought, Alexander suddenly froze for a moment. He had just done something he had never allowed himself to do before, ever. He had actually thought of the word gay in reference to himself. In a sense, he had just admitted to himself that he was gay. What surprised him the most was there was no feeling of self hate, there was no denial, and there were no tears.

“This is so totally fucked up,” he said to himself.

He had a more or less repeat performance with his mom and dad and with the counsellor later that day, though. The next day, however, he spent most of the day looking at the clock on the wall. He wasn’t sure why, but as the time of Rio’s probable arrival approached, he became more and more nervous. Nervous to the point of shaking. He counted down the seconds and when he hit zero, Rio walked in the door. This time there were tears, even before Rio reached his bed. When he did reach the bed, Alexander sat up and pulled Rio into his arms, laid his head on Rio’s shoulder and cried his eyes out. Rio just held him and rubbed his back soothingly.

What neither boy knew was that Alexander’s mom and dad arrived early, and as they approached his door they stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the boys. They quickly and quietly slipped away and went directly to the counsellor’s office. While they waited, the counsellor slipped down and peaked into Alexander’s room. When he got back to his office he had a smile on his face.

“I don’t know who he is or where he came from or how he got into Alexander’s room without being seen, but that young man seems to have gotten through to him,” he said to Alexander’s parents.

Meanwhile back in Alexander’s room the boys were now sitting side-by-side on the bed.

Of course, since he still had no clue, “Who the hell are you?” was Alexander’s first question.

“I’m Rio,” Rio replied.

“You said that before,” Alexander said, “But Rio who?”

“Rio Jensen, I’m Karen Jensen’s cousin,” he replied.

 “You are for real then,” Alexander responded.

“Oh yeah, I’m real,” Rio replied.

“Okay, so how the hell did you know about me? Nobody knows about me,” Alexander stated, “And how did you end up here?”

“Well, after you scared everyone half to death, I was talking to Jake and Ian and they mentioned that you hated gays big time,” Rio started.

“Yeah, so?” Alexander questioned.

“Well I just kinda put two and two together,” Rio replied, “If your life was as good as they said it was but you tried to end it, it just made sense that if you hated yourself that much…and hated gays…then you were probably gay and couldn’t deal with it…so I decided I was going to help you.”

“Seriously?” Alexander responded, “Are you sure you’re for real?”

“Oh yeah, and it wasn’t hard figure out,” Rio said, “I hated myself for years and thought of killing myself more times than I care to remember.”

“Fuck man,” Alexander almost whispered.

“But it made me who I am today. I’m gay and proud of it and I don’t give a shit who knows,” Rio responded.

“Yeah but I do,” Alexander replied, “So where does that leave me?”

“That leaves you doing what you’ve always been doing,” Rio replied, “Unless you accept who you are, be proud of who you are, and be honest with yourself and everyone else.”

“I don’t think I can do that,” Alexander replied.

“Why not?” Rio asked. “You have no idea how it will take a huge weight off your shoulders and give you your freedom back. You need to give yourself a break, be able to relax, and be happy, truly happy, not this stupid fake happy you’ve been putting on these last few years.”

“Yeah but Mom and Dad will hate me like yours did,” Alexander responded, “I’ll lose all my friends…the team…everything.”

“I don’t think so. Besides, anyone you lose was never yours in the first place,” Rio retorted, “If they were, they’d stick by you no matter what.”

“I don’t know,” Alexander said, “I’m so scared. At least they’ll still mine if I stay quiet.”

“They won’t belong to the real you. They’ll belong to the fake you,” Rio stated, “And what happens when the fear catches up to you again and you can’t take it anymore?”

“Rio,” Alexander said. Then he paused and said, “Oh God I don’t know. Why does life have to suck so bad?”

“Come on man,” Rio countered, “I pretty much guarantee your parents won’t stop loving you, especially after nearly losing you. And you know we have a very progressive school with a GSA and everything. And, no one hates Jake or Ian and their friends…or me.”

“Yeah, but my folks are Catholic, and the Bible says being gay is a sin,” Alexander said.

“No it doesn’t,” Rio replied, “That’s a misinterpretation.”

Before they could carry their conversation on any longer, Alexander’s parents walked into the room and Alexander froze and just stared at them.

“Hi honey,” his mom said trying to act as casual as she could, “It’s so good to see you feeling better. Who’s your friend?”

After Rio gave him a little nudge, he replied, “This is Rio, Karen’s cousin.”

“Hello Rio, it’s nice to meet you,” his parents both said.

“Thank you,” Rio replied, “It’s nice to meet you too.”

Alexander’s dad looked at him and said, “It’s so good to hear your voice again. With everything these last few days, we were beginning to think we had done something wrong and you hated us for it.”

“Hated you?” Alexander questioned, “I never hated you.”

“Then why?” his mom started to ask.

After looking at Rio for a second and seeing Rio’s smile, he replied, “I hated myself, not you.”

“But why honey?” his mom asked, “You always seemed so happy and had so much good happening in your life. You were living most boys’ dream.”

“Oh God,” he said as he reached for Rio’s hand and looked at him for a few seconds, “Mom, Dad, my life wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. I hated myself…I hated myself because I’m,” then he glanced at Rio again before uttering the word he had avoided for years, “…gay.”

“You put yourself and us through all this because you’re gay?” his dad asked sounding totally confused.

“I’m sorry,” he replied.

“Alexander, we don’t care if you’re gay, bi, or whatever,” his dad said, “You’re our son and we’ll always love you. Don’t you know that?”

“I’ve just been so scared and confused,” he replied, “I didn’t know anything.”

“Oh God honey,” his mom responded, “I so wish you had come to us. We’ll always be there for you no matter what.”

“I love you both so much I couldn’t stand losing you if you’d found out that I’m gay,” Alexander replied.

“Not going to happen, ever,” his dad said with a big smile as he stepped forward and gave Alexander a hug. Alexander hugged him back like he never wanted to let go. His mom quickly stepped into the hug as well and they held each other for several minutes.

“Is Rio your…” his mom started to ask as she and his dad backed away.

“Not yet,” Rio replied with a big grin, “But I’m working on it.”

“Geez Rio,” Alexander exclaimed, “I just told them I’m gay that should be enough of a shock for one day.”

“Actually honey…” his mom said with a smile, but Alexander interrupted.

“Can we go home now?” he said, more to save himself from his mom and dad than anything else, “I think I’m good to go.” Then looking at Rio, he grinned and said, “I think my guardian angel here will vouch for me.”

“Absolutely,” Rio stated with as much authority as he could, “There is no doubt this fine young man is good to go.”

His parents just laughed, as much from the relief of knowing they had their son back safe and sound, as from the boys’ antics, and gave them both a quick hug. After spending an hour with the doctor and the counsellor, it was decided that he was in fact good to go and he was released.


Since it was Friday, Alexander had the weekend to decide how school was going to go. Of course, he spent the weekend with Rio, Jake, and me. Graham and Scott were with them for a bit too. When a couple of Alexander’s teammates, Jason and Riley, saw us walking to the ice cream shop, they simply joined us and after giving him a huge hug each and then giving him shit for scaring the hell out of them, they spent the rest of the day hanging out with us.

After watching Alexander and Rio interact for a while, Riley looked at Jason, and grinning said, “I told you so.”

That proved to be the general reaction of everyone at school too. That is if you discount the initial mob scene, and the fifty thousand questions directed at him as he and Rio walked in the door. Or the fact that Rio nearly ended up on his butt on the floor a couple of times until Alexander took his hand and laced his fingers through Rio’s. Something that did not go unnoticed. However the whole scene soon ended when Alexander’s friends from the football team surrounded the boys, and the team captain made it quite clear what would happen to anyone who didn’t leave both Alexander and Rio alone. A warning that was quickly echoed by the Coach, who was in the process of fighting his way through the crowd.

At lunchtime in the cafeteria, Alexander did stand up in front of basically the entire school population and raised his arm high in the air so they could see his bandaged wrist. He then gave them an emotional explanation of the last few years and particularly the last few days…his fears about being gay, his refusal to accept he was gay, and the fact that he had almost committed the ultimate mistake over his own stupid, irrational fears. He was gay…so what? He then grinned, turned, and took Rio’s hand in his and thanked him for being there for him…even if he didn’t know who the hell he was at first.

The kids all sat there and quietly listened. In the end, it was no big deal to anyone. There might have been the odd girl who was a little pissed because she had a crush on him. However, now they all knew Alexander was gay…but damn, could he catch a football and score touchdowns…and tell a good joke. More importantly though, he had shown them that keeping things bottled up inside, trying to deal with things alone, was seldom, if ever, a good idea.

He ended it with, “Life can be really scary at times, but no matter what is going on in your life, you are never alone. Seek help. Accept help. Offer help. And if you don’t know who to reach out to…reach out to me.”

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.