What Would Hating You Get Me? (by Grant Bentley)

Calgary Centre Street Bridge - Photo by Chuck Szmurlo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

What Would Hating You Get Me?

By Grant Bentley

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

“Hey faggot!” I yelled as I walked up to him and punched him in stomach, causing him to double over in pain. “You make me sick, you queer fuck,” I yelled. “Why don’t go somewhere else? You don’t belong here…you don’t belong anywhere.”

Of course everyone turned around to see who I was yelling at…like they didn’t already know. I mean, who would I be yelling ‘faggot’ at? Robbie Burdett, who else? It was bad enough the guy was a faggot, but he didn’t even try to hide it. I mean he was, like, right out there, as if it was something to be proud of or whatever. I couldn’t believe it. What was with that shit? It was disgusting. I didn’t even want to think about it.

The gay thing aside, he did have some entertainment value. I’ve gotta admit, giving him shit and fucking him up in front of everyone gave me a lift. The look on his face every time he saw me was priceless. The guy was scared shitless of me, but he wasn’t even bright enough to avoid me. He just walked out of the school every day when the bell rang and stood waiting for the bus—and for me. He knew I wasn’t gonna leave him alone. I’d been nailing his faggot ass since he came out at the start of the semester. You’d think he would have figured it out by now.

Then one day he wasn’t standing there waiting for me. It was the first day that semester that he hadn’t been out there. In fact, when I thought about it, he hadn’t been in school at all. I just figured maybe he was sick, or better yet, he’d moved away. ‘Whatever. Who cares,’ I thought. I had to get home anyway. I had a stupid essay to do on tolerance and understanding that old lady Reese had assigned for the next day. She spent a whole hour yapping on and on about that crap. Tolerance and understanding—what a crock of shit. The way I saw it, it was simple. ‘Why the hell should we tolerate these freaks? If they want to be tolerated, then they should stop being gay and choose to be normal like everybody else.’

When I got home and walked up the steps to the house, I saw an envelope taped to the front door. As I got closer, I saw it had my name on it. ‘Who the hell would write me a letter and tape it to the front door of my house?’ I wondered. As I unlocked the door, I ripped the envelope off and headed up to my room to change. I threw it on the bed while I changed into something more comfortable. Once I had changed, I sat back on my bed and opened the envelope to see what it was. Inside was a letter. No big surprise there, duh. Holy shit, it was from Robbie. What, was he writing me freaking love letters now? I was going to just throw it into the trash, but I figured it might be worth a laugh, so I read it.

What was that all about? “I wish you could understand.” Boo hoo. How gay was that? What a faggot.

‘Oh, and he forgives me. Big deal,’ I thought,.‘Like I give a shit.’ I threw the letter down and grabbed the remote. I thought I might as well see what was on TV and chill for a while before I started that stupid essay. The first thing that came up was the evening news. I never listen to the news. It’s nothing but a bunch of depressing crap anyway. But, as I was about to change channels, the news guy started talking about some kid they fished out of the river. ‘Maybe it’s someone from school,’ I thought, so I decided to listen to the rest of the story. Apparently he fell off the Centre Street Bridge. ‘How lame is that?’ I thought. That’s when a picture of Robbie flashed up on the screen. I was stunned…Robbie?

Then it hit me…the note. I grabbed it and read it again. Holy shit. It was a suicide note. To me. To me, for fuck’s sake. I read it again. The words, “I forgive you,” just seemed to reach out of the page and grab me by the throat. Suddenly, I could hardly breathe.

I burst into tears…body-wracking sobs. I cried for more than an hour. I know that because the next thing I knew, my mom was holding me and rocking me back and forth. Mom is a nurse in the intensive care unit of Foothills Hospital and nearly always gets home exactly one hour after I do. She kept asking me what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer. All I could do was cry. Finally I began to calm down, but it was still several minutes before I could speak.

“I killed him,” I barely croaked.

“Killed him?” my mom asked, sounding scared. “Killed who?”

I grabbed the note and handed it to her. She took it and began to read. The look of shock on her face…then sadness…then disappointment, broke my heart. She just stared at the wall above my head for a few minutes before she looked back down at me. She never said a word. She just looked at me, tears running down her face. I wanted to curl up and die right there.

I had been her ‘pride and joy’. That’s what she called me and I loved it. I don’t think I had ever done anything to disappoint her in my life. Yeah my marks weren’t as good as they should have been, but I never gave her any grief. When my dad left, I swore I would do whatever it took to make her happy. Up until then, I had been successful.

It had been just Mom and me since I was twelve when my dad ran off with his assistant—a guy. It nearly destroyed my mom and hurt me in ways I still can’t explain. He did it for another guy…a faggot. He was a faggot and I hated him for it.

But now my hate for him had killed someone else…someone who had never done anything to hurt me…someone who had been a friend…someone innocent…Robbie.

After a couple more minutes, my mom reached out and pulled me to her and wrapped me in a tight hug. I wrapped my arms around her and immediately burst into tears again. We sat while I cried for at least ten more minutes. Finally, my mom released the hug and pulled back. She wiped the tears off my face with her thumbs and said, “Come on sweetie. We need to eat…and talk.”

She took my hand and pulled me up, then wrapped an arm around me and led me to the kitchen. Sitting on the table was a bucket of KFC with all the trimmings: fries, gravy, coleslaw…my favourite meal. I just stared at it. Right then, even the thought of eating made me want to throw up. The only other time I felt like that was when my dad left us. I started to cry again.

Mom sat down beside me, put her arms around me and whispered, “Robbie didn’t die, sweetie.”

I pulled away from her. “What?” I asked.

“Robbie didn’t die. He’s in intensive care at the Foothills,” she replied.

All I could do was look up and say, “Thank you,” before I started crying again. This time from relief, though the relief was short-lived.

“They brought him in this morning about 8:00 AM,” Mom said. “A young couple were walking along the river and saw him fall. The young man dove into the river and pulled him out while his girlfriend dialed 911. Because the river is so shallow this time of year, he hit the bottom pretty hard and has broken both his left leg and left arm. He also has some head trauma. Thankfully, he had no internal injuries, although he has a lot of bruising. He’s still unconscious though and they don’t know how bad the head trauma is. They’re hoping it’s minimal so there will be little or no swelling. If there’s too much swelling and they can’t relieve it, it could cause brain damage so they’re monitoring him very closely.”

I immediately began sobbing again. “I’m sorry,” I cried. “I never thought anything like this would happen. Oh, God, he has to be okay. He has to be.”

“He has the best neurosurgeon in the country, Tommy,” she said. “If he can’t pull him through, nobody can.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I never meant for this to happen.”

“I know you didn’t,” Mom said, “but why did you do it? Robbie used to be one of your best friends.”

“He’s gay, Mom,” I replied. “He’s just like Dad.”

“Oh, Tommy!” Mom exclaimed. “You have to get over that, sweetie.”

“How?” I cried. “He hurt us. He wanted to be with that faggot more than us. He’s a faggot and I hate him for it…for what he did to us.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry,” Mom responded. “This is my fault. We should have talked about this a long time ago. Yes, he hurt us.”

“No kidding,” I said sarcastically.

“I don’t know if I can explain it properly,” Mom said, “but you have to understand. Your dad never meant to hurt us. He didn’t want to be gay. He spent his whole life living in fear because of it. He tried to be straight. He tried very, very hard to be straight. He loved me and he loved you, but he couldn’t keep lying to us; more importantly, he couldn’t keep lying to himself. It was getting to be just too much for him and he couldn’t do it any more.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “If he loved us, why would he run off with another guy. I mean…that’s just sick.”

“I know it’s hard to understand, especially when you’re young,” she replied, “but, we can’t deny what we are and hope it will go away. It doesn’t. If we try to live a lie, it just keeps eating away at us unless we learn to accept ourselves and who we’re meant to be. Your dad met Adam, and with his help he finally learned to accept himself. Unfortunately, we got hurt in the process. You have to understand though, Tommy, he was becoming more and more depressed and withdrawn as time went on, so I think we might have lost him anyway. At least this way we know he’s living the life he was meant to live and he’s happy.”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “You make it sound like you understand and forgive him.”

“I do, sweetie,” she said, “but it took me a long time and a lot of soul-searching to come to terms with it. I’m only sorry that I was so wrapped up sorting myself out that I didn’t think about what you were going through. How could I have been so blind to not know you would be feeling the same pain I was, or worse? I should have been there to help you work through it, but you seemed to take it all in stride.”

Just then the phone rang. Mom got up to answer it. It was the hospital. Since Mom was one of the head nurses in the intensive care unit and she knew Robbie, she had asked to be notified of any changes. When she came back into the kitchen, she was smiling.

“That was the hospital,” she said. “Robbie regained consciousness about twenty minutes ago. He’s awake and he’s aware of what’s happening. He’s going to be okay.”

I jumped up and threw my arms around her and started crying again. This time the tears of relief were not going to be short lived. He was going to be okay. I hadn’t killed my friend.

“Oh God, thank you,” I cried.

Over the next two weeks, Robbie continued to improve. Mom kept me up to date on his condition. He had been moved out of intensive care after three days and was in a private room. We also talked a lot about what led me to do what I had done to him. I wanted to go and see him. I wanted so desperately to apologize to him, but I didn’t think he would ever want to see me again, let alone talk to me after what I did. I drove him to attempt suicide. What could be worse than that?

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to see him. Finally, I asked my mom if she thought I should try to see him. She smiled at me and told me she thought it might be a good idea. I knew she had been visiting Robbie every day and they had been talking—about him—about me—about my dad. Mom told me that Robbie already knew about my dad and that’s why he wrote, “But, I think I understand where you are coming from. And I forgive you.” She also told me that she hadn’t realized what a thoughtful, sensitive, caring young man Robbie was. She said most boys in his situation would be doing nothing but whine and complain, but she never once heard a negative word come out of his mouth. In fact, he amazed her with his maturity and renewed optimism. It made me realize why he had been my friend in the first place.

After two and a half weeks, I finally got up the courage to go and see him. When I got to his door, I stood peeking in at him. He was lying watching TV with his left leg and arm in casts. His left foot was suspended a few inches off the bed with some kind of pulley system. He looked horribly uncomfortable. ‘Something else I was responsible for,’ I thought. I saw a tear roll down his cheek and he wiped it away. That did it; I couldn’t stand seeing him like that. The guilt was overwhelming. I turned and ran. I ran down the hall, the stairs, out of the hospital, and up the street to the park. I found a bench and sat down and wept. After about five minutes, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a quiet voice ask me what was wrong. I looked up to see an older lady with a concerned look on her face.

I don’t know why, but I told her everything. When I was done, she took my face in her hands, gave me a smile, and said, “He told you he forgives you. I think you should believe him and go see him. Don’t you?” Then she gave me a little kiss on the forehead.

I looked into her eyes and smiled. “Yeah, I want to, but it hurts so much when I see what I did to him.”

“I know dear,” she replied, “but I think you need to see him and, if I’m not mistaken, I think he needs to see you.”

I thanked her and gave her a little hug and looked back towards the hospital. I felt her give my shoulder a little squeeze. I stood up, smiled at her and started back towards the hospital. In ten minutes I was standing outside his door again. It took me another five minutes to get up the courage to step into the open and knock on the door. He turned and looked at me. He didn’t move or motion for me to come in, he just stared at me. His eyes began to tear up and he quickly wiped them.

“I’m sorry,” I almost whispered. “I’ll leave you alone.”

Just as I was turning to leave, he said quietly, “No. It’s okay. Come in.”

I slowly walked into the room and across to his bed. I couldn’t look him in the eyes, though, and kept my eyes directed towards the floor.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied before emptying my heart to him. “Look Robbie, I’m so sorry. I don’t blame you if you hate me for the rest of your life. What I did to you was unforgivable. I took all my hate and frustration out on you. I had no right to do that. I had no right to treat you the way I did. I’m just so sorry, man. Look at you, and it’s all my fault. God, I wish I could take your place. I deserve to be in that bed, not you. I’m such a fuck-up. I really don’t know what to say, man.”

“Whoa, slow down,” Robbie said with a small smile. “I think you’re doing pretty good for someone who doesn’t know what to say.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“I got that part,” he responded, and then added, “Look at me.”

I couldn’t.

“Tom, please…look at me,” he asked again.

I slowly raised my eyes until I was looking at his chin.

“No, I mean look AT me,” he insisted and pointed to his eyes.

Finally, I looked him in the eyes and he held my gaze for almost a minute. It was excruciating. It was like he was looking into my soul and I felt helpless.

Eventually, he smiled. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“For what?” I asked.

“For letting me see the truth,” he replied.

“The truth?” I questioned.

“The eyes never lie,” he responded.

I started to cry…again. God, I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

Robbie then reached out with his right hand. I looked at it for a second before I took it in my right hand. When I looked back up to his face, he was smiling.

“I want us to be friends again,” he said.

“I don’t know why you would,” I replied, sniffling, “but so do I…so do I.”

“I’d move over so you could sit down,” he said with a grin, “but I’m kinda hung up at the moment.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, almost in tears again.

“Hey, we’ve been there, done that,” he said.

“Yeah, I guess. Thanks man,” I responded. “You amaze me though. I can’t believe you would want anything to do with me after what I did to you.”

“We’ve been friends for years—good friends. That’s why it hurt so much. But you went through some really bad shit and, because of it, reacted badly to my coming out. I didn’t exactly react rationally either. We both let our emotions rule our brains. Besides, what would hating you get me?”

“You’re right,” I responded. “Look what hate got me…and you.”

“It’s settled then,” Robbie said, smiling. “What’s done is done. Now let’s hope we both learned something from this whole thing and can get on with it.”

We settled into a normal conversation and within a few minutes we were talking just like old times. It was as if I hadn’t spent the last three months making his life hell. I quickly realized how much Robbie meant to me and how much I valued his friendship. It hurt to see him lying there like that, knowing I was the cause. But as he said, it was time to move on. Among other things, he told me that as far as anyone knew besides my mom and me, he had been climbing around being stupid and fell off the bridge. And that was the way he wanted it to stay. I assured him I wasn’t going to say anything different.

Just then, one of the other guys from school, Scott Madsen, walked into the room.

“What the fuck are you doing here, asshole?” he demanded as he grabbed my arm. “I can’t believe you. You even have to come to the hospital to fuck with him?”

“Scott, no!” Robbie exclaimed, then more quietly said, “It’s cool Babe…we’re cool. I’ll explain it all later, kay?”

Scott let go of my arm, but he was still glaring at me.

I looked at Robbie for a second before a smile came across my face. “Did you just call him Babe?” I asked.

Suddenly Scott turned bright red as Robbie grinned and said, “Yeah. Scott came to see me as soon as I was out of intensive care and we…well, we’re a couple now.”

“Cool,” I said.

“You’re okay with us?” Scott asked, looking astonished.

“Yeah, I’m okay with a lot of things…finally,” I replied.

“What does that mean?” he questioned.

“Robbie will fill you in,” I responded before turning to Robbie and saying, “You can tell him the whole story if you want. I’m okay with it.”

“Okay, cool,” Robbie replied. “I will. It’ll work a lot better if one of my best friends and my boyfriend like each other.”

“Best friends?” Scott asked, sounding totally confused.

“It’s a long story,” Robbie replied.

“It must be,” Scott said, still looking baffled.

“Look, I should get going,” I said. “It was good talking to you, man. I’ll leave you two alone. Take care and I’m really…” I stopped there because Robbie pointed a finger at me and smiled. I gave them both a wave and left for home. I still couldn’t believe Robbie. He was such an amazing person. I don’t think I would ever have forgiven me in a million years, but for him it seemed easy. He was definitely a very special guy and Scott was lucky to have him. So was I. He had left me feeling very happy; happier that I had felt for years and certainly happier than I deserved to feel.

During the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my mom had said to me about my dad. I wanted to believe her, but it was really hard. Mom and I talked about it a lot. So did Robbie, Scott and I. I needed to get so many things straight in my head. I needed to understand everything. Not just my dad leaving, but also how he had tried to be someone he wasn’t. How eventually, he got to the point where he couldn’t keep up the charade any longer. How his leaving had nothing to do with us or his love for us. We talked about how life had been for Dad, his homophobic parents and family, his fear, not just of being discovered, but his fear of who he was. He was actually afraid of being gay. We talked about how we reacted to him and his decision, and how much we had hurt him as well.

After a couple of months, I finally ‘got it’. Four and a half years after he left, I was finally able to understand what my father had been going through and was able to forgive him for hurting me, and especially for hurting my mom. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Deep down, I don’t think I ever stopped loving him. I had covered up the love with hurt and turned the hurt into hate.

One of the things that I think helped fuel my anger is that I look exactly like my dad, something that until now I had hated. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw HIM and was reminded of the hurt…of what he did to us. It was like I couldn’t escape from him, no matter how hard I tried.

Anyway, after countless hours talking with Mom, Robbie and Scott, and just as many hours lying on my bed thinking, I felt I was ready to see my dad. I was ready to tell him I forgave him, ready to ask him to forgive me, and ready let him know I still loved him.

As I said, I hadn’t seen my dad for four and a half years…not because he hadn’t tried…because I had refused. The last time I had seen him I had screamed, “I hate you! You’re nothing but a fucking faggot! I’ll never forgive you. I hope you die!” I had never seen my dad look so hurt. It had devastated him.

A lot had changed since then, though, especially me. I was no longer this little four-foot-ten twelve-year-old full of anger. I was now a six-foot-two sixteen-year-old who was finally growing up, learning to deal with his feelings, and hopefully getting his life back together. And now it was my turn to wonder if he would forgive me.

One Saturday afternoon, I decided it was time to set things straight with my dad. He was living in a downtown high-rise, so I caught the bus downtown. I got off several blocks from his apartment building. I was so scared. I needed the time to put together what I was going to do, and what I was going to say—not that I hadn’t run through it in my mind a hundred times already. Far too soon, I found myself standing outside his building. I just stood there for several minutes. I could feel myself on the verge of tears and I hadn’t even entered the building yet.

Finally I got up enough nerve, entered the main doors and rang for the concierge. He came to the door, wished me a good afternoon and asked how he could be of assistance.

“I’m here to see Ryan Stryker,” I told him.

“Who shall I say is calling?” he asked.

“Tom,” I replied.

“Tom…?” he questioned.

“Just Tom,” I said.

He looked at me kind of strangely, but did as I asked. He was told to send me up. We stepped into the elevator, he put some kind of key into a slot and then pushed a button and stepped off the elevator. As the doors closed, I almost went into panic mode. I felt some comfort in the fact that I could still walk the hallway for a minute or so to get myself together first.

Within seconds, the doors opened and instead of seeing a hallway, I found myself looking directly into my dad’s apartment and staring into the face of a very handsome man who appeared to be a few years younger than my dad. I felt like a trapped animal with no way of escape. I had no idea the elevators opened right into the apartments. So much for having a minute or so to get myself together. To make it worse, I wasn’t looking into my dad’s face, but, I assumed, his boyfriend Adam’s face. I must have looked ready to panic or pass out because he immediately asked me if I was okay and if I needed to sit down.

All I could say was, “I think so.”

“I’ll get you a drink. What would you like?” he asked as he led me into the kitchen and I sat down at the table.

“Pepsi, if you have it, please,” I replied.

He grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge, opened it and handed it to me as he sat down across the table from me. I thanked him, closed my eyes and took a big drink, which seemed to help calm me down.

When I opened my eyes again, he was just sitting there, looking at me with a big smile. I didn’t know what else to do so I smiled back.

“You look exactly like your father when he was your age,” he said.

“I know,” I responded.

Then there was a long, very uncomfortable pause as we looked at each other. I don’t think either of us knew what to say. I wanted my first words to my dad to be face-to-face, not on the phone, so I hadn’t told them I was coming over. It was a complete surprise for this poor guy and I obviously caught him totally off guard.

Finally he said, “Ry…sorry…your dad isn’t here right now. He went out for groceries, but he should be back within half an hour.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Does he know you’re going to be here?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, which led to another very uncomfortable pause.

“Okay, this is getting awkward, and I’m not being a very good host. I’m Adam,” he said, smiling as he reached out to shake my hand. I reached out and we shook hands across the table.

“I’m Tom,” I said, which caused him to laugh. It was a very gentle, warm laugh and somehow it helped relax me.

“There’s no doubt about who you are,” he said with a grin. “We may have never met, but I could have picked you out of a crowd anywhere. Even if you didn’t look exactly like Ry, there are enough pictures of you around here that I couldn’t help but recognize you.”

That made me smile. Dad had pictures of me all over the apartment. ‘That must mean something,’ I thought.

“Do you want me to show you around?” Adam asked.

“Yes please,” I answered.

As we walked through the apartment, Adam pointed out different things and told me the story behind a lot of them—where they got it or why, stuff like that. He hadn’t lied: there were pictures of me everywhere and even a couple of my mom. I noticed that he had all my school pictures, even the one from this year. As we moved about the apartment, we began talking more and more. The more we talked, the more I began to like him. He was very relaxed and casual and easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all, even though, in a sense, I was. It was obvious he was very fond of my dad and I sensed he was fond of me too. Within half an hour, it felt as if we had known each other for years and I could see why my dad liked him so much.

We were standing on the balcony and Adam was pointing things out to me when we heard the elevator door open and close. My dad was home. Suddenly I was tense again.

Adam patted my arm. “Don’t be so nervous,” he said with a smile. “There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

“I can’t help it,” I said.

“Let me give him a little warning and grab the groceries so I don’t have to clean up broken eggs and spilled milk,” he said with a chuckle.

My throat was suddenly dry. I was only able to smile and sort of squeak out a croaky, “Okay.”

Adam left me on the balcony and went into the apartment. I could kind of make them out through the drapes. I saw him take the groceries from my dad and say something to him. Dad immediately looked towards the balcony.

I slowly moved from behind the drapes to the open side of the balcony doors and stepped into the apartment. I felt terrified. What if he didn’t want to see me? What if he was still hurt by the last words he had heard me say to him? What if…

I didn’t have to wait long for my answers. Within two seconds, he crossed the room and I was in his arms and instantly, we were both in tears. We must have stood there holding each other and crying for two or three minutes, neither one of us saying a word.

Finally, my dad loosened his grip on me and held me at arms length. “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re here,” he said through his tears before he pulled me back into another tight hug.

“I’m sorry Dad,” I managed to whisper into his ear. “I didn’t mean those things I said to you. I love you.”

“I love you too son,” he whispered back, “and I’ve missed you so much.”

Eventually, we separated and Adam guided us into the kitchen where he had set out some snacks and coffee, as well as a fresh Pepsi for me. For the first two minutes, all Dad and I could do was sit looking at each other with silly grins on our faces.

“It’s so good to see you,” Dad finally got out.

“Yeah, it’s good to see you too,” I responded. “I’m so sorry it took me so long.”

“I understand,” he said. “I know I hurt you and your mother deeply and for that I am so very sorry.”

“Yeah, you did,” I said, “but I took it to the extreme. I carried around all these negative feelings for far too long. In fact, looking back, I think I made a special effort to keep them alive. I didn’t want to let them go. You were gone and I missed you, so to compensate I replaced you with anger. It took me until the last few weeks to come to terms with that fact. I did some really horrible things to Robbie, a friend of mine. It was the consequences of those actions that finally made me take a good long look at myself. With Mom, Scott and especially Robbie’s help and forgiveness, I finally got it together. I finally realized that I was not only hurting myself but others as well.”

“I’m so sorry son,” he said. “I can’t help but feel responsible for making your life so much more difficult than it needed to be.”

“Don’t feel responsible Dad,” I told him. “It was my own selfishness that caused it, especially as I got older. It was Robbie who made the difference. He taught me more about selflessness and forgiveness in one afternoon than I would have learned in a lifetime otherwise.”

“He must be a very special young man,” Adam said.

“Yes he is,” I responded, “and so is Scott, his boyfriend.” It was then that I told them the whole story of Robbie and me, from the days of being good friends, to his coming out and my reaction to it, his ‘fall’ off the Centre Street Bridge, everything. They both just sat silently, listening to every word. By the time I was finished, I was in tears again and my dad had moved over and wrapped his arms around me.

“Telling us that took a lot of courage,” Dad said. “It shows a level of maturity beyond your years.”

“I don’t know about that,” I replied. “I don’t see anything I’ve done in the past few years as mature. If we’re going to talk about maturity, then we should be talking about Robbie.”

“I really hope we get a chance to meet him,” Adam said.

“I promise to bring him over as soon as he’s mobile again,” I said. “I know he wants to meet you, but he can’t really use crutches with a broken arm. I think he gets the casts off in another three weeks and then he has a few weeks of physiotherapy to regain the strength in his muscles.”

“He has a boyfriend?” Dad asked. ”Scott?”

“Yeah, Scott,” I replied. “He went to see Robbie in the hospital and I guess things worked out between them because now they’re a couple. Scott’s a really nice guy too, you’ll like him.”

“So you’re okay with their relationship then?” Adam asked.

“Yeah, I am,” I answered, then with a chuckle, I added, “I’m okay with yours too, in case you’re wondering.”

That got another one of those gentle, warm laughs from him before he looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you.”

I grinned at him for a minute.

“What?” he asked.

“So if I call my dad ‘Dad,’ should I call you Papa?” I asked.

I thought Dad was going to fall off his chair, he was laughing so hard. Adam just stared at me for a few seconds.

“Don’t you dare,” he replied, laughing. “Adam will do just fine, thank you.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting caught up with each other’s lives. I couldn’t believe how much I had missed out on, how much fun it was to be with them, laughing, joking and just enjoying each other. Adam was amazing. In just one afternoon he had won my heart. When it was time to go, I got a huge hug from Adam and another from my dad. I had to promise I would be back next Saturday for the whole day—including dinner. I felt so good as I was walking to the bus stop; I felt light and free. I almost felt like I could float home.

Later that night, lying on my bed, I thought about all I had missed out on by ostracizing my dad. Also, I couldn’t help but appreciate how differently I was feeling, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I realized that the effort required, and the cost involved to hate is enormous.

Then I smiled as I thought of the infinite wisdom behind Robbie’s simple question, “What would hating you get me?”

A very special thanks to Azy for all his time and hard work editing this story for me.