Obligation to Myself
by Nick (Nickolasjames)
I admit it. I had reservations about stopping the fight. It didn't involve me, and to be honest, I thought Jeremy Fisher was a little weird. But with my girlfriend Micah looking at me with a frightened look in her eyes, I knew I couldn't just stand there and do nothing. She knew Jeremy. She'd known him her whole life and I always thought it was strange that they were so close. The way he acted like a girl when he was around her really creeped me out.
This morning, I picked her up on the way to school. When we arrived, there was a crowd in the corner of the parking lot just near the edge of the school's property. Of course, being the social beings that we were, we both wandered over to see what was happening. When we got there, Jeremy was on the ground with his shirt pulled up over his head. He was being punched repeatedly by Travis Stevens, a senior. He was what we called a stoner. He didn't have any cool friends. At least, to me, none of his friends were cool. I never saw them at any of the parties I had ever gone to, and they seemed to hang out in the "geek section" of the school. This was a grassy area near the auto shop, and only the stoners and the people the stoners could get away with picking on hung out there.
I made my way through the crowd and used my size to take control of the situation. I simply reached out and grabbed Travis' shoulder, spinning him around to face me and flashing him an angry look.
"Get out of here," I said forcefully. Unfortunately, he didn't think he had to listen.
"f**k you, Reeves," he spat. "This is none of your business."
"f**k me?" I said, giving him a chance to think twice about what he was saying.
"You heard me," he shouted, getting right back in my face.
I had no intention of getting in a fight today when I left my house at 7:05 to pick Micah up and drive her to school. Actually, I didn't even want to touch Travis Stevens. He always seemed to have the same dirty jean jacket on, and he smelled like an ashtray. His breath was so powerful that when he got in my face, I almost gagged.
The shove I gave him felt like nothing to me, but it sent Travis flying back onto the asphalt so hard that he got up rubbing his hands, which he had used to cushion his fall. While he was busy looking at them and trying to shake them off, I moved in and gave him an even harder shove, sending him crashing back down. This time, he just sat still and looked up at me.
"Don't you ever talk that way to me again," I warned him. "I'll kick your a** next time."
By that time, Jeremy had made it to his feet and Micah had moved in to make sure he was alright. As I walked back to my car, there was the usual chatter about how I made Travis puss out. I expected to hear about it all day. I also expected to be called into the office at some point during the day.
I'm Trevor Reeves, a junior at Ocean Lakes High School. I lift weights, I play baseball and I'm dating the flyest girl in school. Both of my brothers graduated from Ocean Lakes before I ever made it out of elementary school, but they were both popular. Their names were still listed on the wall in the weight room for getting into the 400 pound club as sophomores. Hell, I haven't made it into the 300 pound club yet, but I'm not too concerned about that. I still run the school.
During third period Chemistry, I was called into the office, as I expected. The Vice Principal, Mr. Jacobson, came and got me. As we walked to the office, he talked to me.
"Do you want to tell me what happened this morning before we get to my office?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" I said, feigning ignorance.
"You know exactly what I mean," he said. "What happened in the parking lot?"
"I think there was a fight," I said, trying to make it sound like second hand information that I was giving him. He simply sighed as I followed him to his office.
* * *
Being suspended for two days wasn't something new for me or my parents. In fact, I'd been suspended more times than I could remember. My parents were used to getting that phone call. Of course, that never makes it any easier on me when I have to face my dad.
"God damn it, Trevor!" he yelled as he grabbed a handful of my hair and gave it a hard yank. "When does it stop?"
Of course, I was grounded, that went without saying. No phone. No car. No friends. Being suspended also meant I was going to have to sit out the game that night, which hurt me more than any grounding or physical punishment the old man could dish out.
I knew my parents were sick and tired of me getting in trouble at school. When I told them what happened, they simply told me that there wasn't a girl in the world who was worth risking my chances of ever getting into a good college. They just didn't understand who Micah Frey was. She wasn't just the hottest girl in the school. She was also the most popular cheerleader and the sweetest person I had ever met. She wasn't totally stuck up like most of the cheerleaders were. Instead, she looked for something good in everyone, and I totally dug that. Not to mention the fact that she was an awesome lay.
The following morning I was awakened by the splash of cold water on my face.
"Get up," my dad said impatiently. "You've got no business sleeping in. What makes you think you don't have to wake up?"
"s**t," I said as I got up, stunned from the icy feeling on my face. "You didn't have to do that."
"You're right, I didn't,' he said impatiently. "If you would have set your alarm, I wouldn't have had to do it at all. Get up and get ready."
"Where are we going?" I asked as I set my feet on the floor and started to stand.
"We aren't going anywhere," he said. "I'm going to work, and you're going to the library. I expect a book report when I get home. You've got the whole day."
When I got out of the shower and got dressed, I went downstairs for breakfast and found my dad sitting alone at the table in front of his morning paper. He looked up at me and nodded, then looked back down at his paper. I walked into the kitchen where my mom handed me a bowl of cereal and an orange, which I took back to the table. I ate in silence while my dad sipped his coffee and scanned his paper.
The ride to the library was out of my dad's way, but since it was his bright idea to ground me from my car, he had no choice. My mom already said she wasn't going to take me.
As we drove through town, my dad turned down the radio and spoke.
"Son, I hate coming down so hard on you," he said. "But you can't go through your life thinking that it's okay to make bad decisions. I want something better for you than your mother and I have, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to see that you get it."
"But dad, I already told you,' I said. "He was beating up on one of Micah's friends, and he was pretty helpless. No one else was helping him."
"Trevor, you made a good hearted decision," he said. "But there are still going to be consequences sometimes behind those decisions. I just wish you'd think things through before you act."
"Yes sir," I said quietly.
"Now look at what happened," he continued. "You're missing two days of school, a game and you're grounded. Was it really worth it?"
"No sir," I mumbled.
When we got to the main library, he let me out up front with my backpack. I had to wait another 15 minutes for it to open, so I took a seat on the steps and looked at my watch. After a few moments a strange looking man walked up and sat on the steps next to me. He looked like he had been using drugs. When he spoke, I was sure he'd been using drugs, and most likely, something really powerful.
"Are you waiting to get inside?" he asked. I just shrugged and tried to ignore him, but he persisted.
"I'm here to do some research,' he said. "I have to find a way to get away from the warlock who cast a spell on me and my family."
"What?" I said in a voice that showed my disbelief in what he just said. "Hey, man, just don't talk to me."
I sat there shaking my head, wondering if my dad would have still left me here alone if he'd have known about the maniac I was having to wait with. Finally, the front doors opened, and I went inside. I wandered around, looking for a book I could read and wondering to myself how I would finish a decent sized book and have a report ready by the time my dad got home. I finally settled on something I had read before.
Of Mice and Men. I took it down and walked over to an empty table, looking around for the maniac. I didn't want him disturbing me while I worked. I opened the book and started reading and to my surprise, I remembered a lot about the story. I was just getting ready to unzip my backpack when I spotted Jeremy Fisher looking my way with an un-sure look on his face. I smiled and nodded, and then I looked back down at my book. I could at least be civil to the guy. After all, he was Micah's best friend.
"Hey Trevor," he said in a small voice as he sat across from me.
"Hey dude, what's up?" I said, trying to sound happy to see him.
"I'm just hanging out here, trying to find something to do today," he answered. "I guess you got suspended too."
"Yeah," I said quietly. "It sucks. I'm going to miss my game tonight."
"Listen, I wanted to say thanks," he said. "You didn't have to do that for me, but you did."
"I don't understand why nobody else helped you," I said honestly. I mean, yeah, he was a little creepy, but he never hurt anyone else. He mainly just kept to himself unless he was helping someone out with their school work.
"I know why," he said with a small shrug. "I understand how people feel about me."
"That doesn't make it right, Jeremy," I said. "Travis is a jerk, and everyone knows that. Someone could have stepped in."
"My dad says it's my own fault," he said. I couldn't believe he was opening up to me like this. "I should be more like everyone else. It's not that easy."
"Why not?" I asked, feeling like I knew the answer but maybe I needed to hear it for myself.
"I don't know how much Micah's told you about me," he said. "But she already knows, and since you two are together, maybe I can tell you too."
"Dude, Micah loves you," I told him. "You can tell me anything you can tell her. I'm not going to judge you."
"Well, the thing is," he started. "I don't like girls. I'm kinda...well, I'm just.......I'm gay."
In our school, there were a lot of different crowds. There were the jocks like me. There were the stoners like Travis. There were preppys. There were Emo kids. There were even Goths. Then, there was Jeremy Fisher. He didn't fit into any of the crowds at school. If he was anything, it was queenish. He was flaming gay, and we all knew it. The trouble was, he had never come out. Jerks like Travis Stevens wanted to find out the truth about him. So they harassed him everyday, and every day, he had to put up with the abuse. I thought it was rather sad that he had to go home and face emotional abuse from his dad.
Still, hearing it from him had a chilling effect on me. The way he said it, in an almost apologetic tone, was kind of moving. I wondered to myself how it made him feel inside when he confessed his secret to someone like me, or even Micah. It gave me a new respect for what he went through on a daily basis.
I learned a lot about Jeremy Fisher at the library that day. He told me about growing up with Micah and about his family. His dad didn't hit him, like mine did, but he always heaped criticism on him and that made him feel worthless. I told him about my dad, and how he didn't mind grabbing a handful of my hair when he thought I needed it. Sometimes my dad would hit, but it was rare. In fact, the last time he had ever used the belt on me was when I was about 13. After that, he strictly pulled my hair.
We talked about Micah a lot, and I found myself missing her terribly. We'd been dating since the end of our sophomore year, and we hadn't spent so much as a day apart. Now I was grounded, and I couldn't even talk to her on the phone. I felt my heart breaking as I sat there and thought about her smile.
I was shocked to realize by the end of the day that Jeremy wasn't so weird after all. He was a normal person, just like I was and all of my friends were, and he had tastes and dislikes too. I never asked him anything personal, but in a weird way, I felt almost flattered that he had come out to me. Maybe that was his way of showing his appreciation for what I did.
The next day, my dad dropped me off at the library again. When I got there, Jeremy was sitting in his car waiting for the place to open. I walked over to his car and he unlocked the passenger door for me. While we were sitting there, Micah pulled up along side us and my heart jumped. I missed her so much, and just seeing her face made my insides jump.
I got out of the car and met her at her door. We kissed, but it was the hug that made me feel complete. Just holding her in my arms felt so good. I wanted to kiss every square inch of her body and not let her go.
"I missed you so much," I told her, feeling like I was ready to cry but still keeping my composure.
"I missed you too, baby," she said right before I slipped my tongue back into her mouth. We got into Jeremy's car and she sat on my lap while she gossiped with her best friend, who had suddenly made the transition into chick mode.
"I'm cutting class today," she told me. "I want to spend the day with you."
"Are you sure, babe?" I asked.
"I'm positive," she said in an angelic voice. "Who would I rather be with today? My teachers or my best friend and my baby."
"I love you," I told her, and I meant it. I did love her. More than I could ever say.
"I love you too," she told me back in that angelic voice again.
When the library opened, we went inside together and sat at the same table Jeremy and I had used the day before.
"It's coming up," she told Jeremy. "Do you want to do it?"
"If you think it'll work," he answered.
"There's a flier on the board,' she told him, motioning toward the community bulletin board near the entrance. "We can make copies and pass them out at school."
"What are we talking about?" I asked.
"It's the Day of Silence," Micah answered. "It's to raise awareness about gay rights and activism. It's also a way to bring attention to hate crimes."
That was when it hit me. Jeremy had been a victim of a hate crime, and here he was, suspended for two days along with me, the person who put a stop to the crime. The real f***** up part was that Travis was suspended for two days as well. Two f****** days. For committing an act of hatred against a guy who happened to be a little different. Maybe if he had bothered to get to know Jeremy, he wouldn't have felt the way he did.
"So what do we do?" I asked, eager to participate.
"We just don't say anything," Jeremy answered. "It's like a moment of silence to honor those who were persecuted and suffered."
"I'm in,' I said.
* * *
I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about actually going through with it. I mean, I had no idea how many people were going to do it with us, or who would try to affiliate me somehow as gay. Of course, if they did, they'd be wrong. And of course, I'd kick their a**.
I guess my main concern was being suspended again. I didn't want to miss any more games as the season was winding down, and I certainly didn't want my hair pulled again. As it was, my parents had just removed all restrictions from my privileges, and that included my car. I would be pretty pissed with myself if I f***** that up again. When I pulled up to Micah's house, she came outside and got in without a word. I gave her a kiss and we drove off.
But my mind was made up. I decided that this was about more than the feelings I had for my girlfriend, or even my newfound feelings of friendship for Jeremy, who happened to be a pretty cool guy. This was about the injustice of what had happened the day I stopped a hate crime in progress. The day Jeremy, who was the victim of that crime, and me, the only person who was willing to stop the crime from happening, got the same treatment as the criminal who perpetrated the act. In my opinion, if there were any justice at all, Mr. Jacobson would have called the police and had Travis expelled.
I was also angry with Jeremy's parents. His dad could have stood up for his son, even if he didn't accept him. I mean, yeah, my dad might be hard on me, but he always stood up for me, even when I didn't deserve it. So did my mom. I couldn't imagine how I'd feel if they didn't lend me some kind of support.
Lastly, I realized that I had an obligation to myself to go through with this. I was upset, and for some reason, this was something I couldn't just move on from. Someone needed to answer for what happened, and since it seemed like the people who should have done the right thing were incapable, I was going to force them to take notice and a little responsibility.
As we pulled into the parking lot at school, Micah pinned a black button to her shirt that had the word Tolerance written in white. When she handed me an identical button, I took a deep breath and pinned it to my shirt. Before we got out of the car, she smiled at me as she leaned over to give me a kiss. When our lips parted, I smiled back and nodded slowly as I opened my door.
As we walked through the halls, Micah handed out more of the buttons, and, probably because she was the most popular girl in school, it seemed like everyone was happy to take one and pin it to their shirts. For some reason, though, I still felt tense. It felt like my legs were going to give out from the shaky feeling they had as we made our way past the lockers. We made it to the snack bar, and to my surprise, there were already several other girls from the cheerleading squad handing out buttons. Some people already had them on when they showed up but they happily took an extra one when they were offered to them.
The smell of cinnamon rolls hit my nostrils and made my mouth water. The snack bar was already opened, and some people were already buying breakfast, I was beginning to regret that I had already had cereal that morning before I left the house.
There were a group of Goths sitting at a table across from us, and they were decked out from head to toe in tolerance buttons and shirts. One guy, Scott Coleman, had dyed his hair red, green and blue. I cracked my knuckles out of habit and stretched out, before I took a seat at the table with the cheerleaders and started to relax. There was still about 20 minutes left before the first period bell rang, so I just sat around and chatted with a few of the guys from the baseball team who had come by to get a button. From where we were sitting, we could see the first row of lockers near the gym, which was where we noticed a sudden commotion. Out of the blue, I saw Travis Stevens stumble to the ground, but just as fast as he appeared, he disappeared again in a crowd of Goths that I hadn't noticed. I got up to see what was happening, and by the time I reached the fight, I noticed that Jeremy was being helped up by a few guys on my baseball team. His shirt was torn off and he had a bloody lip. There was also a long scratch on his chest. Travis, on the other hand, was getting his a** kicked by the crowd of Goths.
"What happened?" I asked as I approached Jeremy, who was shaking.
"That f****** a******," he said angrily as he pointed at Travis and started to tear up. "I'm tired of his s**t."
Just then, Mr. Jacobson came over to stop the fight. Things were starting to calm down, but by then, there was a tremendous crowd that had formed.
"Ok, it's over," Jacobson shouted, trying to get the crowd to disperse. "Everyone needs to give us some room."
I moved away from the scene with Micah and Jeremy and the guys from my team. We made our way back to the tables near the snack bar to sit down. Carlos, one of the campus security men, had made his way to our table, but instead of finding out if Jeremy was alright or if he needed his cuts tended to, he told him to stand up and demanded to know why he left the scene.
"Stevens just attacked him for no reason," Kyle Porter, one of the guys on my team spoke up. "We were on our way over there to stop it when those other guys jump in to help. He didn't do anything."
Carlos gave Kyle a skeptical look, then he turned back to Jeremy, who looked like he was under a lot of pressure.
"Is that true?' he asked.
Jeremy, who was still crying, nodded sadly at Carlos, who simply patted him on the shoulder and told him to sit down before he got on his radio and called the office. Micah put her arm around Jeremy and gave him a long hug as everyone watched in silence. I for one felt like I wanted to kill Travis Stevens. But as I looked around at the crowd, I realized that there were jocks, Goths, red necks, cheerleaders, preppys and even a few stoners all looking on with sadness.
"Mr. Reeves," I heard from behind me. I turned to see Mr. Jacobson standing there with a very annoyed look on his face. "Why am I not surprised that you were at the scene of the fight?"
"He didn't do anything," Jeremy said with a shaky voice.
"That'll be enough, Mr. Fisher," Jacobson snapped. "I'll deal with you when I'm done with Mr. Reeves."
"I've talked to a few witnesses," Carlos suddenly spoke up. "They said that Jeremy didn't do anything to provoke the attack."
"It takes two people to fight," Jacobson said with a sneer as he turned back toward Jeremy. "Quite frankly, Mr. Fisher, you seem to have a problem with Travis Stevens."
I couldn't take it anymore. The look of hopelessness on Jeremy's face was too damn much for me. His only crime was showing up for school, and for that, Travis Stevens had taken it upon himself to commit another hate crime. Only, this time, I was going to call it what it was.
"That's bull and you know it," I said, startling myself as much as everyone else. "Travis is a f****** punk!"
"That's enough," Jacobson shouted.
"No," I countered. "He committed two crimes now, and you keep turning your back. You should be on the phone with the police!"
"Don't tell me what I should be doing," he said rather testily. "I know my job."
"He committed two hate crimes," I said slowly but loudly. "If you don't tell someone, I will."
With that, I turned and stormed off toward the office. I had decided at that point that if he wasn't going to put an end to this, I was going to talk to Mr. Madison, the principal. Someone was going to do something about this.
* * *
Sitting alone in my room, waiting for my dad to some home was like a death sentence. Yet, I was calm and even alright with my fate. I knew I'd be grounded again. I also knew that I'd most likely get my hair pulled. Heck, even if my dad decided to hit me, I was okay. As I sat there, thinking about my day of silence that had turned into a day of communication, I smiled. I hadn't been suspended and neither had Jeremy. The police were called, and as I sat in Mr. Madison's office and ranted about Travis Stevens, I knew things were going to get better.
Still, Mr. Jacobson called my house and told my mom that I was being disruptive. I guess he didn't like being told that he was wrong. The truth was, I didn't even care. I hoped in my heart that Travis was going to be expelled and that we'd never have to see him again.
When I got home that afternoon, I had a long talk with my mom, who didn't seem too upset with me. I don't think my parents understand homosexuality, and to be honest, I might not either. But I also don't really understand calculus either. But what I do understand is that not everyone is like me, and that I don't have the right to judge them for being who they are. I also understand the difference between right and wrong and the meaning of friendship.
I was proud to have Jeremy Fisher as a friend. I can't imagine what he must have felt like when he was attacked by Travis Stevens for the first time, let alone the second time. The pressure he was under must have been unbearable. Pressure that was brought on because he was who he was. Not what he was, but who he was. As if he could change that.
I was also proud to have a guy like Kyle Porter as a friend too. I admit that I wasn't sure about what was going to happen when I started hanging out with Jeremy and including him in some of my plans. To be honest, not everyone on the team felt comfortable about seeing me and him hanging out. But for the most part, things stayed cool.
I was okay. So was Jeremy. At least for now, he was okay. I knew he'd have a long, bumpy road ahead of him, but I promised myself to be there for him. I had an obligation to him and an obligation to Micah. Even more so, as a man, I had an obligation to myself.
This story was my Spring Anthology 2006 entry at Gay Authors. Feel free to leave comments.
You can find this story and others that i have authored at www.Gayauthors.org.