I keep seeing Brody’s eyes in my mind...
Even when misted over with the painful tears of rejection...they were soooo beautiful. The kind of beautiful that takes your breath away. Not just once or twice, but every time you see them. It makes me feel so sick inside to know that I was forced to hurt him the way I did, but I...I did it to save him. I really did. I just want him to understand that I’d gladly sacrifice everything that I’ve ever wanted in life...just to see him move on and be happy. You know? Isn’t that what love is?
Isn’t that what gives the love we once shared some meaning?
At that moment...I heard my father’s footsteps walking by my room. My door was closed, of course. It always is. But it didn’t provide much of a barrier between me and the monster outside. Sometimes, I think my father likes to stomp extra loud just to somehow exert his dominance over the rest of the house. It was almost like some sort of macho expression to prove that he was the king T-Rex in this jungle...and everyone else was a helpless slave to his will, whether it be for your benefit or your demise.
I hated that.
He couldn’t just be a mean-spirited bully...but he had to gloat about it. Express the joy he got from making everybody else feel small...and alone...
I heard those stomping footsteps pass by my door, and my breath got caught in the back of my throat. Would he stop and open my bedroom door? Would he barge in and say something so despicable, so ruthless, that it carves an open wound in my heart that will take weeks to heal...considering it ever heals at all? Will he search for all of the reasons he has to hurt me again? Or...will he just hurt me again for no reason at all? Would it even matter which route he took? His utter loathing of everything that I am always had the desired effect. All I could do was pray that I survived it, and lived long enough to get beaten up another day.
The stomping got louder...then softer...as he passed my room completely and went back to watching TV.
I was able to let out a sigh of relief. The extreme tension in my shoulders began to loosen up a little bit, and I realized that the immediate danger had passed. But then...something else happened...
I thought about what Brody said...about none of this being my fault. About...how I shouldn’t have to live my life like this. In constant fear. In constant pain. And this powerful emotion began to swell up inside me. Getting bigger and bigger until I thought I was going to explode. After years and years of practice...swallowing the misery, covering it with a mask, distracting myself to keep from dealing with my fucked up life as it was...I think this was the very first time that I truly felt like my inner pain was out of my control. Followed by the epiphany that...it was never within my control to begin with.
I held my breath. I tried to force the emotion back down into my gullet. But I looked at my hands on my desk...and I could see them trembling. Physically trembling. I was so accustomed to being locked in a continuous state of terror that I hadn’t fully realized what it was doing to me. What I was doing to myself. The building emotion began to break down all of my defenses, all of my well practiced tricks, denials, and self deceiving magic. And suddenly...my vision blurred with tears...my face turning red, heated and sore from the strain...and once two rivers of tears ran down my cheeks, I found myself completely helpless against the fact that this dam was about to burst...and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I couldn’t let my father hear me. I had to cover my mouth, my nose running, my brow furled up in the most painful of expressions. My heart began to speed up as my fight or flight responses kicked into high gear. It felt like I was going to die. Literally DIE! My survival instincts began to set off every alarm within me and while they initially told me to run...there was another dominating thought in the back of my mind.
One that I had entertained before...but not so much as I had at that very moment.
Knives in the kitchen. Screwdrivers in the garage. Poisons and weapons and blunt objects. Hammers...lamps...an old baseball bat in my closet. I could end this. I could...I could make him go away. And I’ll never hurt like this again. Not me, not my mom, not Brody...
I was ashamed for what I was thinking, but...I was desperate. SO desperate.
I began to sniffle loudly as mucous ran over the back of my hand, my tears flowing freely now...still holding my breath and doing all I could to push the feelings back down, but they REFUSED to go! They had been suffocated for long enough! They were going to show me the truth whether I wanted to accept it or not.
I am abused. I am the child you hear about on the news. I am the one who has to be found and rescued. Or...in some cases...merely ‘found’. You know…after it’s too late.
I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my lungs and brought a hand down to my chest as I heaved and coughed with an emotional outburst that was savagely pushing its way out faster than I could keep up with it. I almost felt nauseous from the sensation, but I had to keep quiet! I HAD to!!!
I spun around in my desk chair and rushed over to my bed to grab a pillow and hold it up to my face. I wanted to scream into it...scream until my lungs burned and my throat tore itself to shreds. But...I can’t. I can’t scream. I can’t cry. I can’t tell anybody. I can’t leave. But I can’t stay. I never felt so stuck in my whole life. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to find an outlet for this misery. For this...this RAGE!
I could do it. I could wait until he drinks enough to fall asleep...or at least wait until he’s off-balance. It would only take a moment’s courage. I could drive a sharp piece of metal into his chest where his hypothetical heart should be...and I could be free. No more pain.
No more pain.
I could hear his footsteps traveling through the house again. I cupped my hands over my ears to block them out. They were like obnoxiously loud bursts of thunder during an overhead storm. I squinted my eyes shut, but the tears ran out of the sides anyway. I pressed both hands on either side of my head, but the sound of those arrogant footsteps still caused fear to pour into my heart like a boiling cauldron of acid...dissolving it from within. Devouring my soul. Breaking me down in every way that a boy like me could be broken down. What was happening to me? Why can’t I stop it?
The mask was falling apart. Crumbling to dust in my hands. I can’t...I can’t fix it! I can’t put it back together again!
My heavy breathing began to make me dizzy. Was I having a panic attack? What’s happening???
I slammed my face down into my pillow and attempted to get a hold on the sudden terror sweeping through me. And I remember thinking...clear as day...
“Why doesn’t he just kill me? It would be better than making me wait for him to do it anyway. Why torture me like this?” Followed by dark thoughts...which seemed to whisper...”I could beat him to the punch. I could take his victory away from him...if I just did it myself.”
I can’t fathom the idea of living in a house without the constant fear of punishment and pain. Please understand...this is my ‘normal’. This is my average Tuesday. While other people were discovering ways to seek happiness and affection in their lives...I was forced into a state of mind that was solely focused on surviving through the night. Focused on healing the emotional wounds he scarred me with. Focused on healing as much as I could before he attacked me again and it became too much for me to handle. This is my life. Full of defense mechanisms and denial. Masks, secrets, and lies. Please don’t expect anything more from me. The part of my life that would make me normal were abandoned by my 8th birthday. They haven’t evolved beyond that. They haven’t matured. They CAN’T! I’ve been way too busy just trying to keep my mom and me alive.
I needed some way to channel this self loathing into a place where I could better deal with it. I wanted to get better. I wanted to heal. And facing what I’ve been through...and who I am because of it...it’s going to hurt. God, it’s going to hurt sooooo much! But if I don’t face it, it’s going to remain as a painful splinter in my heart forever. I can’t run from it. I can’t hide from it. It’ll always be there until I man up and decide to deal with the reality that...I might just be more fucked up than I think I am.
I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to fix it. I want to be better.
...It makes me believe that I can be more than what I am. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. Not like this. It’s a threat to everything that I believe about myself, and a spear in the heart concerning what I’ve built up as a strong defense to protect me from the devastating effects of everything I’ve been through up to this point...
...But his love gives me hope. His sensual kiss gives me purpose. And if a boy so amazing, so flawless in his design, can believe in me...how can I not be inspired to believe in myself?
It was at that moment that I heard the doorbell ring in the house, and I froze. I wiped my tears from my eyes, and I frantically grabbed for some tissues to blow my nose and clean myself up immediately. My father doesn’t like to answer the door. He always makes me do it. Once he gets himself comfortable on the living room couch, he doesn’t want to move unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Sure enough, he called out, “Zack! Get the door.”
Our front and back door bells sound different, so I knew it was the back door. I only had a few seconds to check myself out in the mirror to make sure that I didn’t look...ummm...’abused’, I guess.
My eyes were a little red and puffy, but...
“ZACK!!!” He shouted.
“Ok! I’m coming! Sorry!” I said, and used my hands to flatten my hair a bit and fix my shirt as I rushed towards the back door to see who it was.
What I saw...nearly stopped my heart completely.
No! No no no no NO!!!!!!
“ZACK! Who’s at the door???” He yelled.
“It’s ummm...it’s just a...” My breath got caught in my throat, a fearful tremor shaking me to the bone...as I saw Brody standing on the other side of our back door. Looking directly at me with fierce determination in his eyes. “I’ll get it...”
I felt like I couldn’t move. My brain locked up on me as I tried to find some logical way to deal with what was happening right now.
But Brody had already seen me. He knew I was there. He was staring right at me. And when I didn’t answer the door right away, he pressed his thumb against the doorbell two or three more times to force me into noticing him.
My father was instantly agitated with the noise. “ZACK!!! Goddammit! If I have to come in there...” He warned.
Conflicted between one feeling of utter terror and another, I chose the lesser of two evils, and I hurried towards the door to keep Brody from making things any worse.
“BRODY!!!” I whispered aggressively. “What the fuck are you doing here???”
“Can I come in?” He said, his eyes burning a hole right through me, as if he dared me to say ‘no’.
“What the…? NO!!!” I said. Oh God...what kind of stunt is he pulling right now? “Brody...I thought I told you...”
A bit hurt, but not backing down, he said, “I KNOW what you told me! And you know what? I don’t fucking believe you. I won’t believe you.”
What does he think he’s doing??? Why is he here???
I heard the sound of those thunderous footsteps approaching us from the living room, and the panic within me began to bubble over and boil out of control. Why the FUCK was Brody here?!?! Oh God! OH GOD!!!
In a stressful whisper, I said, “You have to go! Ok? You have to go now!”
“I’m not leaving you...”
“PLEASE!!!” I whimpered. “You can’t do this! Please don’t do this!” I tried to shut the door in his face, but he put his foot out and pushed back.
“Zack? Who is it?” My father said as he entered the kitchen.
I didn’t want to cry. I tried to keep my voice from shaking with the horror of having my abusive father and my secret boyfriend finally seeing each other, eye to eye, for the first time.
“I...he’s...” SPEAK, Zack! You’ll only look more suspicious if you don’t speak! “This is...a friend of mine. From school. He’s….this is Brody.”
Brody didn’t even try to hide his contemptuous glare from him, and they locked eyes for a moment while I nearly trembled myself into a state of violent nausea.
“I think you have my math book in your room, Zack. Can I come in and get it?” Brody said.
“No. No, I don’t...” Please take the hint, Brody. Please???
“I’m pretty sure you do. Can I just check? I have homework due tomorrow.”
My father grunted, “Just let him in and let him look for the book, already. What are you doing?”
Before I had a chance to protest any further, Brody pushed the door open a bit wider and stepped into my house. “Thank you, sir.” He sounded defiant when he said it, but I don’t think my father noticed it as much as he would if I had used that tone of voice with him.
Nervously, I told Brody to follow me, and quickly passed by my father as Brody angrily stared him in the face. I just hurried him down the hallway, pulled him into my room and shut the door. I was so MAD at him! What the fuck was he thinking? “Brody...I don’t know what you think you have to prove here, but this is NOT a good idea!”
“I don’t care!”
“SHHHHHH!!!!” I said, reaching to put my hand over his mouth, only to have him push it away. “Brody, please...”
“I LOVE you, Zack!”
“No, you don’t.” I said. “You think you do, but...”
He suddenly grabbed me by both cheeks and pulled me in to kiss me on the lips! Oh GOD! If my father knew that I was in here kissing another boy, he’d literally MURDER us both!!!
“STOP!!!” I cried. I was shaking so bad. I was so confused as to how to keep him safe in this house. I can’t even keep myself safe in this house. “I need you to go. Ok? You checked in on me, and….thanks. But you need to go now. You REALLY need to leave!”
“I can stay here with you, Zack. I can stay until your mom comes home. Just let me help you!”
“You can’t help me! You CAN’T, ok?” I pleaded quietly. “You don’t understand...you’re in DANGER right now!”
“So are YOU!” He argued.
“It’s not the same thing! I can fucking deal with this on my own! I didn’t get this far by depending on you for help!” It was harsh, but maybe if I hurt him badly enough to get him to leave, he’ll be ok.
“I’m not buying your act anymore.” He said. “You love me too. I know you do!”
“Brody, please...” I sobbed.
“Say it! Say you love me too! Say those few words and I’ll escort you out of this house myself and get you some help. REAL help!”
“This isn’t your problem. It’s mine. And I can deal with it.”
“You shouldn’t HAVE to deal with it! Don’t you see that?” He snarled. “Say it! I want to hear you say it.”
Reluctantly, I surrendered. “I love you too, Brody. I do.”
And when he moved in to kiss me this time, I allowed his tender lips to linger for a few moments before pulling away from him again.
He sighed out of frustration, and he said, “Zack...I can make one phone call...and I can have the fucking police here in TEN minutes! Maybe less! You can get AWAY from this!”
“If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have done that by now?”
“No. Honestly...I don’t.” He said. “Don’t let him break your spirit, Zack. Everything about you is sooooo beautiful. You have value. You have heart. Nothing about this situation fits you at all. And if you continue to put up with this...it’ll eventually ruin you as a person. And that would be a waste. That would be the biggest waste ever.” As tears rolled down my cheeks, Brody reached up to wipe them away for me. “Please...let me help you. It’s only a phone call. One phone call.”
It almost felt like a possible solution. It almost sounded like the path to my ‘happily ever after’. But the voices in my head wouldn’t let me believe it. The consequences of dancing with the devil himself were far beyond Brody’s understanding. I didn’t want to hurt him again. Any pain that Brody felt...I felt ten times worse. But I reached up to slowly take his hands away from my face, and I whispered, “I love you, Brody. I love you sooooo much. But...I need you to go. Ok?”
Defeated, Brody just pressed his forehead against mine for a moment, both of us crying over the utter helplessness of the situation, and he finally backed down. “Call me tonight. Ok? I mean it.”
“I’ll send you an email or something later. I promise.”
“No.” He said. “I want to hear your voice. Seriously.”
“Ok...” I sniffled.
“I love you.”
“Love you too.” I replied, and we kissed again, finally breaking our intimate contact. And after fixing ourselves up, and wiping our eyes, I walked him back to the door. He stepped out onto the porch, and turned to give me a look of sorrow. Or maybe it was pity. I am pitiful, after all. I got choked up trying to say goodbye, but was able to fake enough of a smile to say, “See ya ‘round.”
Brody didn’t answer, but I forced myself to close the door anyway. Even with him staring at me through the window.
I’m almost convincing that there’s an alternate reality out there somewhere...a place where I’m not so damaged, and Brody and I are able to have a happy and healthy relationship. Two teen boys in love...without any of the baggage that I’m dragging around with me all the time. A place where I have a father that loves me, instead of constantly battering me with endless hatred and disgust. A world where wishing upon strikes of lightning on a rainy day really does give you everything that you could ever dream of.
But...I don’t live in that reality. That’s just not a part of my waking life.
Wherever that other reality is, in whatever dimension...I hope that version of Zack is having the time of his life. I really do.
Maybe he can enjoy enough joy and romance for the both of us.