The Beginning of the End
MY NAME is Bradley Greymark, and I used to be the most popular guy in Foster, Texas.
I know that doesn’t mean much to you, and I’m not supposed to say things like that, or I end up sounding like a colossal douchebag. But over the last day I’ve realized what I used to have and how much I liked having it. In twenty-four hours I’ve gone from Top Dog to persona non whatever that word is, and I wish I could say it didn’t suck as much. I didn’t know how much I had enjoyed being popular until I had a large Coke thrown in my face.
There is a TV show that I really don’t watch where unpopular kids get cold drinks thrown in their faces just walking down the hall. They kind of gasp and then wipe their faces as the colored liquid drips down the front of them while people around them laugh. I suppose it makes for a good bit of comedy, but let me tell you, the reality sucks balls.
My problems started when I was sitting in the backstop during lunch a few days ago while the guy I had a huge crush on told me I was losing him. Those same problems ended and a whole new set began with me standing in the middle of a crowd declaring that I liked guys too. Which wasn’t a lie in so much as it didn’t feel like the entire truth. But Kyle, the guy, was standing there by himself being so brave that I couldn’t just stand there and let him hang by himself. So I had stood up with him and said I liked guys also and that if anyone had a problem with that, they could take it up with me. I’m not sure what I thought would come after that, but all of this wasn’t it.
The next day I was completely hosed.
Normally I got up early, showered, dressed, and made my way to pick up my girlfriend Jennifer. I’d hang out in the student union before first period and shoot the shit with the other guys and talk about who was having what party this weekend and if it was worth going to or not. Then I’d doze off in class, counting the seconds until lunch came around. Come noon we’d all sit at what everyone else called the Round Table, which was where everyone who was anyone ate and pretended to like each other. That would then lead to a countdown until practice after school where my day truly started.
Nowhere in the world am I happier than on the baseball field. The sun, the wind, the smell of the cut grass, all of it is just perfect to me in a way that is hard to describe to others. Some guys like it because it wasn’t being cooped up in a classroom. Others seem to like it because it’s physical; smacking the ball around is a great way to get out all the pent-up frustration that could accumulate during a day of school. Most of the guys like it because being on the baseball team makes you cool.
Not me. I love baseball because being out there is the only place in the universe where I can be myself.
I wasn’t Nathan and Susan’s only boy. I wasn’t a high school student who was unable to maintain a 2.75 without help. And I wasn’t one of the nameless kids that were born, bred, and died of boredom in Foster every year. Out there on the diamond, I wasn’t a disappointment; I wasn’t too dumb, and for a couple of hours a day I wasn’t stuck in Foster. From the moment I walked onto the field to the second I stumbled back into the locker room, I was in a place that, if anyone asked me, I would have said was the closest to heaven that I am ever going to see. It was the entirety of my life standing on that grass chasing after fly balls. I know it sounds corny, but it really was the only bright point of an otherwise shitty life.
Normally my entire day would be a prelude to that moment. Nothing else mattered to me as much as standing at home plate, holding a bat, waiting for a ball to try to get by me.
But today wasn’t going to be normal. Today was the very opposite of normal, and there was no way I was going to avoid the fact. I sat on the edge of my bed, not sure what I should do with my time. I couldn’t go pick up Jennifer; she had taken off from school after my announcement and so far hadn’t called me. Of course, I didn’t have the balls to call her either, so I wasn’t too surprised.
I wasn’t sure if I could go sit with everyone in the student union. I mean what could I say? “Hi guys. So anyone else come out yesterday?” I’m sure that’d go over like a fart in church. I mean, I wasn’t even sure if I was gay or not. Sure I liked Kyle; that I knew. I didn’t know about the rest of it. Did telling the whole school I liked guys count as coming out? Could I take it back? Did I even want to?
So I sat there and thought about faking a heart attack so I could skip school for a few months. I mean they wouldn’t let a kid with a weak heart deal with something as harsh as high school, would they? I knew my mom, though; she would overreact to the point we’d end up in the emergency room, where she’d throw a fit, all the while proclaiming that no one would see her son. The doctors would find out in two minutes that I was fine and my mom was nuts. We’d end up with no ride home because the two Xanax she would swallow in the middle of her panic attack would kick in, and she’d be useless. They’d call my dad to tell him what had happened, and then the shit would hit the fan.
The thought of my dad finding out I liked guys almost made me throw up.
I could hear my parents’ shower running, which meant I needed to be gone now. I threw on clothes and went over to pick up Kyle as quick as I could. It took every iota of control I had not to squeal my tires as I pulled out of the driveway and took off toward his house. Kyle had given me the impression that his mom wasn’t a morning person, so I didn’t call to let him know I was coming over. I knew what it was like to have a friend fuck you over by waking up your parents, since I had caught shit more than once after one of my drinking friends called at three a.m.
Kyle didn’t live on the nicest side of town, but then I wasn’t sure what that meant any more. Our family was supposed to reside in one of the priciest areas in Foster. The people I knew there were more fucked up than any family in town. Sure the people over on this side of town didn’t have as much money as everyone else, but in my own personal experience, money only makes people meaner and nastier. I couldn’t imagine Kyle was proud about living in a place like this, but honestly, he had nothing to be ashamed of.
Kyle was a great guy, but I didn’t have the same amount of faith in the rest of the people who lived around him. I knew more than a few guys in my own neighborhood who would get off on screwing up a car like mine for kicks, and those guys had a lot more money than the people around here. If anything happened to this car, my dad would beat me to death and leave my body hanging in the front yard as a warning to anyone that passed by.
It wasn’t even eight in the morning, so honking for Kyle was out of the question, which meant I needed to get out of my car to knock on the door. Luckily I could park right in front of his apartment, so I could keep one eye on the car as my knuckles rapped quickly on his door.
After a few seconds the door opened, and Kyle stood there in his boxers. His hair was sticking up from sleep, and there was a toothbrush in his mouth. He looked so cute that I forgot all about my concern and worry about the previous day’s proclamation. I had to smile. “Morning.”
He yelped something unrecognizable as speech and slammed the door shut.
I knocked again. “Come on, Kyle. I already saw you.”
“What do you want?” I heard him ask from the other side of the door.
“Well I was here to pick you up for school, but now I want to take about a thousand pictures of you looking like that,” I said, knowing he was so wound up he wouldn’t take my cheery words as a joke.
“Wait out there,” he said after a few seconds.
“Kyle, let me in,” I replied, leaning up against the door. “We both know you ain’t got nothing I haven’t seen personal—”
He swung open the door, and I fell backward into his apartment. “Shut up!” he exclaimed, looking down at me. From down there I could see him blushing, and it made him even cuter.
I grinned and craned my head back. “Nice boxers, you know I can see up your—”
“Fuck you,” he said. He turned away and sprinted into his room.
I laughed as I got up and closed the door quietly.
The apartment wasn’t as clean as I expected it to look based on my other friend’s house. Last time I was here, his mom had let me wait for him in his room; there hadn’t been time to really look around the place. It wasn’t a wreck, but it was obviously not as clean as my mom liked to keep ours. There were a few beer bottles on the table and an ashtray full of cigarette butts in the living room. I looked through the ashes for a second and could see not all of them were tobacco. His door opened, and he poked his head out. “Get in here!” he whispered frantically, gesturing me in.
I walked over calmly and slowly, knowing the pace would drive him even crazier.
“Will you hurry up!” he hissed. He was really cute when he was upset.
“Thought you said to wait out here,” I said casually.
Kyle grabbed my arm and pulled me in his room. He had thrown on a hoodie, but he was still in the boxers. They were pale white, and I could see what I knew was a sizable member flopping around inside. “I meant outside, not in the living room,” he said, exasperated.
I shrugged, knowing well what he had meant but playing dumb. “How was I supposed to know?” He rolled his eyes, which finally made me laugh out loud. I grabbed the front of the baggy hoodie and pulled him close. “Come here before you have a stroke or something.” I kissed him hard, needing to hide in his embrace, if even for a few seconds. I felt him stiffen in my arms for a second, and then he kissed me back, his arms slipping under my letterman jacket and pulling me close.