It was a few days after our April vacation when I met… him. My life as it was was fine before. He changed me and even though I experienced it, I never truly saw what was in the eyes of others before me. Not being well liked before in front of my school, had changed for the worse but I stood my ground only focusing on what was important. That was him.
My name is Eric Parlini and I am the well known bully at Sea Side Memorial High School. I got the role of it when a girl in middle school accused me of hitting her. I didn’t but my face was never a happy one. It didn’t convince my innocence. After that, I began wearing what any bully would wear. Black shirts, chains, spiked color, and varieties of skinny pants I wore. It was meant to be a statement but I just created the definition of a stereo type.
I was coming back from the arcade where I just beat the latest high score on Pac man. Original high score was 2,323,360. Mine was even better, 3,333,360. It’s a good way to get out of that crammed house of mine. At the arcade there was no mother nailing me down about how I should work harder in school, no kids playing throw the rock at the Parlini’s window, and there was definitely no one in sight from my school.
Today was a good day. Tomorrow I hoped would be a good day. School though would never be a good day. For now I would take in the sweet smell of coffee and donuts from the Dunkin Donuts that I passed everyday on my way home from the arcade.
If it wasn’t for the smell I would pass out. Mr. Johan’s garbage was never a good sign especially when it was piled up to be a classic greasy bank of leftover takeout.
Right on schedule, I passed Ms. Kinning gardening in the front of her yard. She never liked me, but I smiled anyways. Next was old grandma Jerkins who would be knitting away on her porch. A fair hello would always come out of her shaky lips. On school days, I always helped her around the house before I went to work. She never made me do outside work even though I think it would be best sometimes for people to see that side of me. Then there was Patricia Williams who always told me how many wrinkles grew on my forehead and how many would stay like that permanently. I never did anything wrong to her, she just got caught up in the rumors and knew how to tick me off.
As I passed by her, she never stopped. There was nothing next on my schedule but to go to my house and expect my mother to be there with a plate of food on the dinning table, telling me how much she loved to make the meal. But today was different. Outside my house was a boy pacing from the sidewalk to the street edge.
His black dress up shoes were being scratched up from how he dragged his feet as he paced. The ends of his white, pleated pants were covered in mud and pieces of grass. His opened striped dobby shirt, a type of flannel shirt, he wore had been missing two buttons and was waving back to show his clean white under shirt. The hair reminded me of Trisha Adam’s hair. She was a girl from my class who’d cut her long hair into such a short bob cut. It was very short but the bangs seemed to move over one side. What surprised me the most was how shiny a man could get his hair these days.
My attention found a better source when I saw my mother’s short bread cake sitting in the open window on the side of the house. The smell flew around in the air just like how the Dunkin Donuts coffee smells around Main Street did. All I wanted was to sink my teeth in the soft deliciousness of my mom’s cake and to savor her homemade cream cheese frosting.
My feet seemed to have a mind of their own and my heart was beating away. The goal today was made, I would finish dinner and have a good helping of that vanilla goodness, but there was one problem. The boy paced right in front of my steps and it would be battle to get past him.
His feet shifted and pivoted from each end of the sideway in front of my house. Even trying to pick the right time to fly up my steps was out of the question. What was wrong with him? If he was waiting for me he would have talked to me already, right?
He spoke, his voice sounding like it had not hit puberty yet. “Why do females always have to wear wedding dresses? Why not tuxedos?” He yelled this time on the last sentence. His next sentence made him unfocused for he tripped over his own foot but gathered himself up just enough not to fall. “I mean come on! Woman wear the pants most of the time.”
The questions made me pause even if they were not directed to me. I made a little sound from my throat before I was about to ask him if he could move but then he noticed me. His face went so close to mine that I could smell the mint of the gum he last chewed. “Do you think woman are just as capable as men are? They are strong right?”
A faint heat had risen from the end of my dry throat to the strong bones of my cheeks. A simple question, why was I so flustered about this? When he noticed my face going to a lobster color, he pulled away from my face and paced one last time.
“I will think of something… Something that will surpass those morons.” The pacing had stopped but he was already taking off down the street. His head was raised high and the way he moved his arms made him look like he was a robot that was freshly oiled.
Were girls strong? At school they seem pretty skinny to me. So no, no they weren’t strong if I could pick them up and snap them in half. Then there was the big busty girls. They would crush me if I was under them but was that really strength? No, girls were not strong. I would tell him that the next time I saw him, if there was a next time. Some odd reason, I hoped for a next time.
David was my closest friend in Sea Side Memorial High School. He saw how sensitive I was and how kind I really was inside of me and accepted me for who I am. Sometimes, though, I had the feeling he was using me to get the other guys away from the girls at our school. I had to erase that feeling because David told me we were friends.
“Dude,” David’s low voice woke me from day dreaming, along with a five star to the back. “Lay off with the creepy smile. The girls ran off,” his sigh was heavier than the last one I heard.
“Sorry…” Ever since I hit puberty my structure and facial expressions scared others. I couldn’t go around smiling because many thought I was mad and would hit them. When I was upset the still thought the same. There never was a time where I was angry, upset maybe but never angry.
“It’s `ight,” David never use to use slang but the more others did it the more he caught up on it. It annoyed me because I never understood why you had to talk like an idiot, but it wasn’t my voice saying those words so I left it alone.
When the girls came around the corner David was already shoving his hands in his pockets and walking like his legs had an enormous rock between them. It wasn’t hard to use a belt to hold up pants. He seemed to stop when that boy I met in front of my house was mixed in the group. The boy blended in well with the girls with that hair of his.
The first thing that caught my attention was his moving lips. They were so small to be a boys and I never saw such healthy ones on a boy either. I kept thinking about it till I realized my heart beat was increasing.
This was bad. I could feel the edges of my mouth making its way up to form my smile. The smiled that everyone thought I was planning their death when I looked at them. At least that was the rumor.
“Jordan, he is starring at you,” one girl had said. Those brown eyes had reached up to my own for a second. I was relived that he hadn’t cringed or frowned yet.
“Have we met before?”
Those words were thrown at me and hit me hard as if I was struck by lightning. I heard something, like snapping, inside and I wasn’t sure if it had been my spine cracking when I bent down or if cracked something else. It had to be my spine cracking when I bent down or if I cracked something else. It had to be
I must have been babbling because David hit my shoulder to get my attention. “They left…” My head bowed again. “What is with you, dude? Last time you did that kind of smile you were starring at Courtney McCaughey. Dude… Jordan?”
It didn’t hurt but my neck cracked when I lifted my head. David jumped and I was shaking my head faster than usual. “No, you got it all wrong. That kid was at my house the other day and he wouldn’t leave. He asked me about girls and other shit. No he wasn’t even asking me. He would have remembered me if he was.” I found myself babbling again.
David was choking up a laugh. His hand was balled into a fist and was pressing against his smiling mouth. “Dave I mean it.”
“I got it. Don’t worry dude, you’re secret safe with me.” He never stopped smiling.
I found myself, the next few weeks, locked in the locker room. I locked it myself. The gym teacher gave me the key a long time ago because I was his assistant and would come in at the end of my class to help set up the equipment for the next class. I just wanted to be alone at this point.
In my locker, was a pile of papers that I brought with me to read. “Faggot… Cock sucker…” The list went on with little drawings off to the side on some.
I didn’t even like Jordan. Why did Jordan have to be at my house that day? Why did he ask those weird questions? Why am I being bullied? I didn’t do anything to anyone. So I look scary and they took it the wrong way but that didn’t mean I was a bad guy.
My heart banged against my chest each time I said his name. His name was setting me off. “Stop…” I kicked the door of the locker room. “Just stop it! I’m normal. Normal!”
The door of the locker room opened and Jordan was there with the key in his hand. How’d he get the key? I wouldn’t know. His mouth opened to speak but I got there first. “I hate you!”
His hands raised while his foot closed the door shut. “Eric.”
“Oh so now you know who I am. Go tell everyone that we are not together. I am a guy. That is just… disgusting!”
“Would you shut the hell up?” This was the second time I heard him yell. “Who cares if a guy likes another guy? It’s normal. A quarter of this school is filled with gays but people like you make it the biggest deal in the world. Just leave them out of this.” He didn’t stop. Jordan made me to sit down and listen to the lecture. It still bothered me though. “This isn’t your concern in this case anyways.”
“What? Are you kidding me? I am being called a faggot because of you,” if I raised my voice would he leave me alone like everyone else did?
“I didn’t say anything. You did this to yourself. No offence either but you are not my type.” Jordan opened a locker that was near the locker room door. I watched as he reached around in a bag and pulled out something that looked like a plus size, white bandage you would use to wrap around your knee.
“What is that?” My feet took off toward him and my hands touched what he held. I had seen my mother have something like it when I was in her room.
“I will tell you a secret, but if I find out you told someone don’t be surprised if you wake up in a ditch somewhere.” Chills ran down my spine after hearing how serious his tone was.
“I promise on my life,” I raised my hand and laid my right hand over my heart.
Jordan nodded and the unexpected came up. His fingers curled along his shirt and he was raising it over his head.
My hands pulled it down and he tried to pry my hands off. “What are you doing?” I yelled.
“Let go and I will show you, you moron.”
“Only if you promise not to touch me or take…”
He interrupted with a sharp yell. “I promise now let go!”
My hands fell to my sides hitting along the chains that were attached to my pockets. I decided to grip the chains and roll them along my fingers so that the cold silver would calm me down.
Jordan lifted his shirt to reveal a white tank top. A sigh escaped my lips as I was relieved that it was only that but he took that one off too and my heart and brain felt like it was going to explode.
A bandage was tightly wrapped around his upper chest and down to where his ribs ended. So he was hurt? “What does this have to do with anything? I get hurt all the time.”
He whipped the bandage that he had pulled out of his bag at my face. “It’s a breast binder you idiot,” he harshly whispered instead of yelled.
Time just stopped. The clock, which hung over the door, ticked loud in my ear. Jordan became blurry and blank and the last thing I heard was her voice calling my name ever so lightly.
Her secret was safe with me. I made sure I threw it all the way in the back of my heart and locked it with the key, which I would give to her.
The school still bullied me and my status as bully was no longer plated on the front of my forehead. The girls were still scared of my smile but Jordan accepted it.
When I asked Jordan to hang out with me, she always showed up even after she said she wouldn’t come. I waited and she called me a fool.
I was a fool but Jordan never meant it. Jordan listened to me even when she didn’t look like she was listening. She never talked about herself like David did either, but Jordan was not like David. Jordan was nice to me and let me down easy.
I will never give up. I want to know her more even if that means me having a plate on my head that read gay. High school would be over soon and I wouldn’t have to see those people ever again.