by EleCivil


Chapter Eight:  Injuries


For the next few weeks, I hung out sparingly with the band, since they spent most of their time practicing their new songs and I was spending a lot of my spare time learning to drive.  On Valentine’s Day, though, Alex’s van pulled up in front of my house almost as soon as I got home.  I got in, surprised to see that the rest of the band was there, too.


I took a seat next to Corey, who was drumming on the back of Alex’s seat in time with the song.  Scott was in the back, playing air guitar and making faces at the people in the car behind us.  Sarah was in front, seated next to Alex and picking out songs to play from Alex’s iPod.  I was a bit shocked that he had one, since it was so trendy to carry them around, but he insisted it was okay.  “I’m pretty sure it’s hot,” he had said, “I bought it cheap from a street-hawker, so I’m not supporting Apple by having one.”  Punk ethics could be confusing, but what really got to me was that it was the first time I had ever heard someone use the term “street-hawker” in real life.


“Here we are!”  Alex announced, pulling into a parking lot.  He stopped the van and jumped out before the rest of us had even reached for the door handles.


According to Scott, it was tradition for them to get together, rent some movies, and spend all of Valentine’s Day in the basement with the lights out, watching gory low-budget horror.  “It’s a day to celebrate love,” He said, “So I want to see some hearts.  You know, getting stabbed, getting torn out, whatever.  Just as long as there’s some gushing involved.”


When we got out, we noticed a crowd of about twenty people in front of the door.


Corey laughed.  “Holy shit, it’s the flock.”


Brimstone Patton and his fans had gathered, signs in hand, to protest.  From the signs, it looked like they were protesting the store’s adults-only section.  Again.


“You know, I just wanted to see some graphic violence, but now that they mention it, maybe-”  Scott started.


Sarah interrupted him.  “We’re not getting porn.”


“But it’ll piss off the-”


“No porn.”


“Fine…”  Scott sighed.  “You’re no fun.”


“What’s up with these guys?”  Alex asked.  “It’s February.  It’s too cold to be standing around outside, yelling about god.”


I spotted Nick, doing his best to hide behind a “John 3:16” sign.  The reverend himself was standing closer to the entrance, speaking to a person who had been about to enter.


“Hey, ‘Sins of the Flesh.’”  Scott pointed at one of the signs.  “I thought that wasn’t coming out on video for another month.”


“What do we do?”  I asked.


“What do you mean?”  Alex said.  “We walk in, get some movies, and walk out.  We’re not changing our Valentine’s tradition just because these assholes are afraid of nipples.”


I nodded.  “All right, but don’t go in looking for trouble, okay?”  They were all giving me blank expressions, now.  “If we start a fight, we might get kicked out, and then we won’t be able to rent anything, right?”


“Dude, we’re not going to walk over and take a swing at the Rev, if that’s what you’re saying.”  Corey said.  “Much as I’d like to…”


As we neared the doors, we found ourselves enveloped in people and poster-boards, all urging us not to support pornographers.  I kept my head down and walked through, not paying any attention.  When I got inside, though, I realized that I was alone.  The others were still out there.


I started cruising the aisles.  I noted anything with the words “blood”, “death”, or “stab” in the title, but didn’t pick anything up, since they’d probably seen a lot of these already.


I was halfway through the F section when Nick walked up to me.


“Hey, how’d you get away?”


He nodded to the door.  “My Dad’s trying to convert your friends to Christianity.  They’re trying to convert him to secular humanism.  I’ve got plenty of time.”


I laughed.  “You sure you want to risk being seen with the enemy?”


“I could say the same to you.”


“Good point.  But I do kind of like this church crowd.  This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to be a bad influence.”


“Bad influence, huh?”


“Yeah.  See this tape?”  I picked up an old VHS copy of Friday the Thirteenth.  “Not going to rewind it.”


“Whoa.  I bet you tip only five percent, too.”


“Hah!  If I even tip at all.”  I crossed my arms and leaned back against the shelf.  At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.  As it turns out, there were some gaps between the shelves every six feet or so, and they weren’t even.  My stomach sank as I realized that I was leaning back into nothing.


Nick grabbed my arm and balanced me.  “Uh…there’s no wall there.”


“Yeah…”  My eyes were on my forearm, where Nick’s fingers were gripping me.  He let go, and I shook my head.  “I think I just lost all my tough-guy points.”


“You’re better off without ‘em.  That’s why you’re in here, instead of outside trying to convert somebody.”  He paused, then burst out laughing.




“You were talking about not tipping…”  His voice caught for a second.  “And then you just…tipped over.”  He laughed again, and his eyes half-closed, his upper lip curling up and showing his teeth.  It made me wonder what I looked like when I laughed.


We walked around the store for a while, just talking and joking around.  Once we had cleared the Z section and had come to the new releases, he looked outside and sighed.


“I should probably get back out there.”


“Yeah.  I’ll see if I can call off the Dark Forces of Atheism for you.”  He grinned at that and we went outside.


The band in its entirety was deep in debate, each against a different person.  I wondered what would be the best way to go about this.  I walked up to Alex first, and tapped him on the shoulder.


“Hey, it’s February.”  He turned around, with a puzzled expression.  “You know, too cold to be standing around outside, yelling about god?”


“Oh.  Yeah…heh.”  He chuckled.  “Guess I kind of forgot about that.”


“Help me with the others?”


He nodded.  “You get Scott.  Just remind him why we’re here.”


He walked off, and I saw him tap Corey on the shoulder.  I found Scott and tapped him.


“The longer you stay here, the less senseless slaughter you get to see.”


“Egad!”  He shouted.


“’Egad’?”  The person he was arguing with and I repeated at the same time.  Our eyes met for a second, then we looked back at Scott.


“What?  He’s right.  I came here to rent movies full of adult language, graphic violence, and maybe a little partial nudity, but not to talk religion.”  He pointed to the door.  “Onward!”


I saw that Alex had had equal success with Corey and Sarah, so we pushed through the crowd and got inside.  It took them only a few minutes to burn through the aisles, picking up boxes.


On the way out, Nick waved goodbye to me from behind his sign.  I nodded back quickly, not wanting his dad to catch him having some kind of friendly discourse with any of us heathens.


I remember seeing some kind of statistic about kids and violent imagery, that the average American minor sees something like ten thousand acts of violence every year.  Thanks to our Valentine’s Day marathon, I think I’ve got that doubled.




It was seven o’clock on a Tuesday night when Corey’s car pulled up and parked in front of my house.  I saw it clearly from my window, where I was working on some homework.  I marked my page and went to the door, getting there just before Corey knocked.


“Uh, hey.”  I opened the door and let him step inside.  Mom and Dad were in the living room, so they couldn’t see us.  “What’s up?”


“We’ve got a show.”




“Clueless Indignation has a show.  Tonight.”


“Where?  When did this happen?”


“The IRS.  Open call to all local bands.”


“Why does the IRS want to hear local bands?”


“Not that IRS.  The Independent Record Store.”  I recognized the name.  Mark told me about it.  It was a small, privately owned place where people traded in their old, obscure CDs for older, even more obscure CDs.  “Anyway, you’re coming.”


“What?  I can’t come tonight.  It’s a school night, and I’ve got homework.  That’s awesome, though.  Good luck.”


“Dude, we can’t play our first show and leave you here.”


“I can’t, though.”


“You can miss a homework assignment, man.  You can’t miss this.”


“I want to, but there’s no way my parents are going to let me.”


“All right, so you tell them something else.  Tell them…that you’re going to spend the night at a friend’s house.  We’re all going to crash over at Scott and Sarah’s, anyway, so you could do that, and then you can ride to school with me tomorrow.”


“You’d really take me to school?  Because last time someone offered me a ride to school, they took me to Columbus.”


“Hey, I’ve got to make sure I graduate.  The semester’s just started.  I can’t skip until I know I’ve got enough built up in my grade-bank that it’s not going to affect me.”


“Is that like your crime-bank?”


“Exactly.  Now, come on, we’ve got to go.  The others are all with Alex, in his van.  They can’t start until I’m there, and I’ve got to bring you, so stop holding us up.”


“I don’t know…”


“Ten years from now, what would you rather think about?  The day that you snuck off to see your friends’ band play a bunch of songs that you wrote, or the day that you passed that up and did homework?”


That sounded familiar.  This was Mark’s argument against my matching socks all over again.  I had the feeling that if Mark were here, he’d be on Corey’s side in this.  I nodded.


“Um, okay…”  I said.  “My parents are probably going to want to meet you, if I’m going to be staying overnight at your place to do homework.”


“Oh…got ya.”  He nodded.


“Hang on.  We’ve got a paper and a presentation due in Biology tomorrow.  We’ve got it pretty close to finished, but we need to finalize some things.  Then, since you live pretty close to the school, we can drive in together.  Sound good?”


“Yeah.  What’s the paper about?”






“Okay, let’s give this a try.  Oh, hang on!”  I stopped him.




“Lose the jacket.  You can grab it on the way out.”


He nodded, peeling off his thick jacket and leaving it by the door.  It clinked against the tiles.


He followed me to the living room, where Mom and Dad turned to us.


“Mom, Dad, this is Corey.”


They exchanged hellos, and I launched into my speech, explaining how Corey and I needed to finish that paper before morning.


“So, you’ll be going straight to school tomorrow?”  Dad asked.


I nodded.


“I really wish you’d told us earlier.”  Mom said.


“Yeah, I’m sorry.  We thought we’d have it done by now, but…”  I shrugged.


“So, why don’t you just stay here to do it?”  Dad asked.  “Since you’re both here already.”


“We need to use PowerPoint.”  I said, going completely off the top of my head.  “We don’t have it on our computer, so we need to use his.”


Mom and Dad looked at each other, speaking in parental-telepathy.  After a few seconds, they nodded.


“Okay, but take your phone.”


I nodded and headed for my room, Corey following.  I stuffed my biology book into my backpack and grabbed my cell phone.


“Anything I need to bring?”  I asked him.


“Nope.  Uh, well…”  He looked around the room.  “Do you have a black t-shirt?”  I nodded.  “Okay, change into that.  You can borrow a couple of my patches.  Oh, and bring something to change into for school, tomorrow.”


After I stuffed some clothes into my backpack, we were off.  It wasn’t a long drive to The IRS.  I saw a huge number of cars in the parking lot – even more than there had been at Valentine’s.  Corey pointed out where Alex’s van was parked.


Now that we weren’t moving, Corey took the pins out of two patches on his jacket.  The first was a small square of fabric with a sticker stuck to it.  The sticker had a hand planting an acorn in the ground, with the words “Operation: Cliff Clavin” next to it.  The second was a peace sign bleached into black cloth.  He pinned one to each of my shoulders.


“There you go.”  He said.  “Now you could pass for a peace-punk.”


“What’s that?”


“It’s like a hippie, but louder.”


“Oh, okay.  But, doesn’t this make me a, what-do-call-it…poseur?”


“It sure does.”  Corey nodded, “But the advantage you have, is that you know you’re a poseur.  Every other poseur here is going to be walking around thinking they’re hardcore incarnate, but you know the truth.”


“That’s an advantage?”


“Not really, but work with me.”


We walked over the van, where I saw Alex for the first time that night.  His hair was cut shorter and spiked up, and he was wearing a white shirt covered in random words written in marker.  Scott and Sarah were dressed in their usual matching blacks – black jeans, black hoodies, black everything.  They were pulling large plastic garbage cans and guitar cases out of the van.  Scott motioned to two piles of the stuff when he saw me and Corey approaching, which we picked up.


As we were carrying the stuff toward the door, a man in a faded concert tour shit stopped us.  He had a long ponytail and was pretty obviously under the influence of something.


“Hey, guys, hold up.”  He held out one hand.  “Unless you need something that we don’t have, you’ll be using house equipment.”


“What do you mean?  We can’t play our own instruments?”  Scott asked.


He shook his head.  “It’d take way too long if we had every band haul in and set up their own stuff.  Besides, this year, we’re going to start selling instruments and equipment here.  That’s why we’re doing this open call thing – to show off our new stuff.  So, like I said, unless you’re going to play something that we don’t have, like, uh…”


“Mandolin?”  I chimed in.


“Yeah, you can use your own mandolin, but we’ve got the guitars and basses and drums and stuff.”


Scott shrugged.  “Whatever.  As long as we get to play.”


“That’s the spirit.”  The guy nodded and hoisted his fist, with the index and pinkie fingers raised.  “Rock and roll.”


“Uh…yeah.  You, too.”  As we were carrying the equipment back to the van, a group of three guys walked up to us.


“Hey, Scotty!”  One of them called.  He was wearing a black bandanna with a white X and the words “poison free” slashed across the front.  “What’s with the trash?  You and your crew finally decide to give up music and start collecting cans for a living?”


“I’ll have you know that dumpster diving is a legitimate part of the DIY lifestyle,”  He shot back, “But these are our instruments, jackass.  You know, those things that us musicians use to make sounds.  I’m sure you guys’ll figure it out eventually.”


“Go suck some vegan cocks.”


“Go threaten some minors.”


“Go seduce a tree.”


“Go play some Green Day covers.”


“Hey,” Black-bandana shook his head. “That was low, man…”


“All right, maybe I did go too far on that one,”  Scott nodded.


“Well, good luck.”


“You, too.”  They flipped each other off before parting ways.


“What just happened?”  I asked Alex, who was walking beside me.


He chuckled.  “That was Paul.  The other guys are in his band, Capsule.  He’s friends with Scott.”


“He is?”


“Yeah.  They want to start a band rivalry, though.  You know, for publicity.  Get their fans arguing about who’s better, so that other people will want to check them out and choose sides.”


“Does that work?”


“Not really, since neither of them have fans.  Most people just think they’re two dicks that fight all the time.  Which is pretty close to the truth.”


“Is that sass I’m hearing back there, ‘Lexy?”  Scott called over his shoulder.


“No, sir!”  Alex took one hand off of his garbage can long enough to salute.  “Nothing but love for you back here!”


Scott shifted his guitar case to his shoulder and marched stiffly for the rest of the walk to the van.


After we loaded the stuff back into the van, Alex pulled me aside.


“Listen, this is going to be different than the show we went to before.  Um…you might want to stay in back, away from the stage.  Don’t touch anybody unless they touch you first.  Oh, and don’t give anyone a thumbs-up while a song’s playing.  And…you don’t do any drugs, do you?”  I shook my head.  “Okay, so…”  He pulled a marker from his pocket and drew Xs on the backs of my hands.  “If anybody offers you anything, you show them your hands, and…kind of snort at them, like this.”  He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and exhaled through his teeth, shaking his head.  “And that’s anything – food, water, whatever.  Just show them the hands and snort.  Got it?”


“Uh…I think so.”


“Cool.”  He smiled and gave my hand a squeeze before letting it go, then ran off to join the others.  I followed, still unsure of our relationship, but too preoccupied to give it any thought.  No thumbs-up while there was a song playing?  What did that mean?


I found out what that meant roughly three songs into the first band’s set.  Alex, Scott, Sarah, and Corey were together in a back corner, getting ready for their performance.  I didn’t want to get in their way, so I went to watch the show.  I stayed further back from the stage, like Alex had suggested.  The IRS, in addition to being a record store, was also a popular local venue – a back room, nearly three times bigger than the part of the building where they actually sell records, was set up with a stage, a bar, and a lot of open space.


The band on stage was playing hard rock.  Directly in front of me, I saw somebody turn to another guy and raise his thumb.  I took a few steps back, but watched closely, curious about what was going to happen.  The guy nodded and bent down, lacing his fingers together.  The first guy stepped in with one foot, and was hurled upwards.


I’d heard of crowd-surfing before.  I’d even seen it in on TV.  Usually, on TV, the crowd-surfer dives from the stage into a waiting group of people and is evenly supported, lying on their back, parallel with the ground.  That’s not how it works in real life.  Oh, this guy was caught by the nearby people, but there was no even support.  Almost immediately, his feet shot up into the air, causing people nearby to duck out of the way.  I couldn’t tell what happened after that, except that he was back on the floor almost immediately, and that at least one person standing next to him now had a bloody nose.  I took a few more steps back and hooked my thumbs into my pockets.


I found myself bored throughout most of the show.  Most of the bands played so loudly that I couldn’t understand any of their lyrics, and since I wasn’t jumping around like I had been with Alex, it wasn’t nearly as fun.  Capsule, the guys that we had met in the parking lot, were extremely energetic, never staying in one place.  That was the day I learned the difference between generic rock, generic punk, and generic metal.  Metal bands are too busy trying to play technical, precise solos to jump around, while punk bands are too busy jumping around to play anything technical.  Rock bands are too busy striking poses to do either.  There’s probably more to it than that, but that’s what I got out of seeing this show.


Clueless Indignation went on near the end.  Surprising myself, I pushed forward, closer to the stage to see them.  I had to really strain my ears, but I could almost make out a few of the lyrics I’d written.  I felt pretty guilty about lying to my parents to come, but Corey was right – I would have regretted missing this.


In the middle of one of their songs, people around me started spreading out, giving me a lot more space to breathe.  For a split-second, I thought it was pretty comfortable.  Then, as the song got faster and louder, people around me started going into fits.  Throwing their fists around, air-kicking, floor-punching, doing some combination of stomping and strutting…there were fists and feet flying everywhere around me.  A sneaker caught me in the side, sending me off into another person, who shoved me back.  As I looked around, there seemed to be a solid diameter of people, shoving everyone who came near them deeper inside, keeping them separated from the rest of the crowd.  I was locked in.


I tried to stay put, hiding out in one spot, but it wasn’t working.  People kept stomp-strutting by, swinging their fists and thrashing around, locked in combat with the air.  I was trying my best to stay out of their way, but there were so many of them, and when I neared the edge, I would get shoved back into the middle.


A tall guy, spinning and punching at the air, stomped over to me.  I turned around just as he was pulling back his fist, and his elbow, moving at top speed, caught me in the eye.  As I was in the middle of turning, my feet got tangled together and I hit the floor.  I managed to get my arms between my face and the concrete, but the jolt caused my teeth to snap shut on my bottom lip.  As the song ended, I tasted blood.


A couple of the people around me, the tall guy included, pushed others away and helped me to my feet.


“You okay?  Or do you need to sit this one out?”


I pulled myself together long enough to say “out”, and they helped me to the bar.  The perimeter of people had dispersed after the song had finished, and the next one hadn’t started yet, so there was no problem.  I sat down on a stool, and after making sure I wasn’t too terribly injured (no dislocated hips or crushed testicles, though those were probably added in the bystanders’ re-telling of this event), they melted back into the crowd.  The guy at the bar took a look at my face, then at the backs of my hands, and handed me a plastic cup of water with a lot of ice.  I thanked him and wiped at my mouth with the back of my hand.  It came away with thick streaks of red that meshed with the black X and made me think of a road map.  Your mind makes weird connections when you’ve just been socked in the eye.


There was a mirror behind the bar.  I looked different.  My reddish-brown hair was messed up, going in every direction, looking like the top of my head had caught fire.  My eye was already starting to swell, and my lip was split.  There was a small trickle of blood rolling steadily down my chin.  Combined with the shoulder patches, I almost looked like I belonged there.  I pressed the cup against my eye.  It stung, but I figured it would probably help the swelling.  As an afterthought, I took out on ice cube and held it to my lip.  I looked at my reflection again, and thought that if this didn’t look better by tomorrow, Mom and Dad were never going to let me do homework at a friend’s house again.


It felt like an eternity before the others found me, but it had really only been about ten minutes.


“Oh, shit.”  Sarah said.


“Hi.”  I replied.


“What happened to you?”  She took my wrist and lowered the cup down to the table, exposing my eye.  “Oh, shit.”


“Stop saying that.”


“Who was it?  We’re going to kill him.”  Corey looked around.  “Right, Alex?  Alex!”  Alex jerked his head up.  “We’re going to kill somebody, okay?  Stay with us.”  Corey said.


“Yeah…kill somebody?  Okay.”


“No, we’re not killing anybody.”  I said.  “It was an accident.  I was up there, by the stage, when you guys were playing, when everybody…flipped out.”


“I told you-” Alex started.


“I know.  Sorry.”


Scott shook his head.  “Man, short guys and hardcore dancing don’t mix.”


“Is that what that was?”


“Yep.”  Corey said.  “Hey, is this your first pit injury?”  I nodded.  “Well, damn.  You’re going to remember this forever.  You want to go celebrate?”


I glared at him.


“What?  I know, you probably don’t usually celebrate getting hit in the face, but this is a special occasion!  Man, I still remember my first time.  Took a boot right in the nose.  Broke it!”  He was beaming.  “She was really nice about it, too.  Hot skinhead girl.  Helped me outside, got me some napkins for the blood…I traded her a Crass patch for a 4-Skins patch.  See?”  He pointed to a patch near the bottom of his jacket.


I guess I was still glaring, because he stopped.


“But, um, I guess you want to get home and get some sleep for tomorrow, huh?”


I nodded.  What can I say?  Sometimes, something just rubs you the wrong way and leaves you in a bad mood.  For some people, getting stuck behind a snow plow in traffic could do it.  For me, it was getting hit in the face.


Alex insisted that I ride back with him, so the others rode with Corey.  It was a quiet ride, but he kept glancing over at me during red lights.  When we pulled up to the house and parked on the lawn next to Corey’s car, Alex turned and stared at me, giving me a funny look.  I laughed.  “What?”


“You, uh…”  He said,  “You look really good.”


“What, with a black eye and a split lip?”


“No, just…in general.”  He picked at one of the safety pins on my shoulder.  “Corey’s going to have to get some new patches, ‘cause you’re keeping these.”  He opened his door and jumped out, and I followed him inside.


Corey was laid out on the floor in a sleeping bag.  He said that Carl and the Twins had gone out to a bar to celebrate, leaving us school kids to sleep.  He pointed at my backpack, which was leaning against the wall.  I grabbed it, wondering how well I’d be able to sleep on the floor.  That thought was short-lived, as Alex dragged me downstairs with him.


The second we were downstairs, he grabbed me by the arms and pressed his lips against mine.


“Ow.  Busted lip.”


“Oh, sorry.”  He looked at his feet.  “I guess, then…”




“We won’t be, uh, going any further tonight, huh?”


“While I’ve got an open, bleeding wound in my mouth?  Sounds kind of dangerous, doesn’t it?”




“Well, yeah.  One of the first things they taught us in sex ed was that when you mix blood and sex…well, you know.”  There was that, but mainly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go any further with Alex.  At least, not yet.  We hadn’t even been on a “date” yet, unless the first concert counted.  And even then…I didn’t know him.


“Oh, that?  No, that’s okay.  I mean, you’re a virgin, right?”


“It’s that obvious?”


“Yeah, kind of.  But, you’re a virgin, so I know you’re fine.  And I know I’m fine.”


“What’s your last name?”


“Huh?  Um, it’s Harrison.”  He grinned.  “But I think I want to be credited as Alex Molotov.  Why?”


“’Cause, unless I’m reading this completely wrong, I think you just asked me for sex.”


“Well, yeah…”


“And I didn’t know your last name.  Do you even remember mine?”


“Uh…some kind of dog, right?  Terrier?”




“Pretty close.”  He shrugged.  “Names don’t matter.”


“What’s that mean?”


“I don’t know.  I heard Erik Peterson say it, once.”


“Who the hell is Erik-”  I groaned.  “Dude, you know his last name!  You knew the last name of the guy who said that names don’t matter, but not mine.”


“Hey, you didn’t know mine, either!”  He said, defensively.


“Exactly!”  I spread my hands.  “That’s exactly my point.  I don’t know anything about you.  Where do you live?  Do you have a job?  You said that you don’t go to school, but you never said why.”


“Jesus.”  He muttered, turning away.  “You could have just said no, all right?  You don’t have to fucking…go off on me.”


I sighed.  “…Sorry.”  He didn’t respond.  “You’re right.  I didn’t need to yell at you.  I’m just…I’m in kind of a bad mood, you know?  I’ve been on edge all night from basically sneaking out behind my parents’ backs, and my eye hurts, and my lip’s bloody…”  I wiped at it again, adding another route to my wrist-roadmap.  “And I guess I really want to know why.”


“Why what?”


“Why you’d…make a move on me?”  I trembled just a bit.  It was cold in the basement, after all.  “When we barely know each other, I mean.  I didn’t mean it to be a put-down to you, or anything.  I’m just new at this stuff, and I want to know if I did something or said something that made you think I’d be…I don’t know, easy, I guess.”


“Are you saying I’m easy?”


“What?  No.  I just…I don’t know.  Is there, like, a different standard for gay guys?  Are we supposed to go that fast?”


“Well, yeah.  I did like it – kissing and holding hands and stuff.  But…does it usually go that fast?  For gay guys, I mean?”


“Um, that kind of depends on the people.  You can’t really speak for everybody.”  He raised one eyebrow.  “Wait.  I’ve got to ask, um…how long have you known that you’re gay?”


“Hm.  Two, two and a half months?  Give or take.”


“Two months?”  He put one hand to his forehead.  “Have you ever really talked to anybody about this, before?  Read anything?”


“Not really.  I told my brother, and my best friend, but that’s it.”


“So you’re in the closet, too?  Oh, god.”  He plopped down on one of the couches.  “If I’d have known that, I wouldn’t have even...”  He sighed.  “Look, I’m sorry, but I can’t be going out with a closet case.”


“Huh?  Were we going out?”


“I don’t know.  But not now.  I just can’t respect somebody who can’t admit to who they are.”


“How am I not admitting who I am?  I told you, didn’t I?  I let you get all grabby with me in front of everybody here.  That’s not exactly hiding.  And how did this turn into being about me?”


“Hey, you started it when you called me easy.”  He stood up.  “I’m not going to be fucking lectured by some…”  He trailed off, shaking one hand.  “Some…whatever.  Forget it.  Good night.”  He took off, heading back upstairs.


“Huh?”  I asked.  I looked around the empty basement.  What had just happened?  Did he break up with me before we had even started dating?  He didn’t make sense before, and he didn’t make sense now.  And, as Carl had said to me, I think he likes it that way.


I laid down across one of the couches.  It was cold and uncomfortable, my face was throbbing, and I had no idea what was going on with Alex.  Needless to say, sleep came grudgingly.


The next morning, Alex was gone.