“Ok. Spit it out” Kayla said, after we settled in for our long ride to school.
“Oh come on. Something is bugging you Daniel. I can tell. Did something happen at tryouts last night? You didn’t text me afterwards. How did it go?”
“It went fine. Really good I think,…but yeah, there was some drama too.”
“Oh? Do tell?” Kayla responded, almost too excitedly.
“Well, you know that guy Derek? You know, the one who harassed me on the bus, the first day of school?”
“Well, I kind of schooled him a few times last night at hockey.”
“Derek plays hockey?”
“What did you do to him? He’s a lot bigger than you…”
“I put him on his ass…twice.” I said, unable to conceal a mischievous smile.
“Really! That’s so awesome!”
“Yeah…well, he wasn’t too happy about it and I’m a little worried about what he has in mind, when he gets on the bus.”
“He won’t do shit. He’s a coward, and he deserved it. Good work killer!”
“Oh god…now you sound like all of the other players. I don’t think Derek is too popular. Everybody was happy I knocked him over. I don’t know, I kind of feel bad for him.”
Kayla didn’t really know what to say about my last comment, so we sat in silence for a while, before she finally said, tapping my thigh “don’t worry too much, okay? It’ll be fine.”
“Something good happened too last night.”
“Yeah. I saw a really old friend who moved away to California, but now he moved back. He used to live on our street. I told him to say hi at lunch today. He’s super cool. You’ll like him.”
“Oh” she said back, unenthusiastically.
“What? Something wrong?”
“No…it’s nothing. I’m happy for you…that your friend came back” again, unhappily.
Before we could dig deeper into the situation, the bus squealed to a stop on Derek’s street. I swallowed back my thumping heart, and looked into my lap. I peeked up through the top of my eyes, right as Derek walked past. He was looking down at his feet, his face expressionless. I didn’t know what to make of his demeanor. I couldn’t read it at all.
“See? Nothing to worry about. I told you he was a coward.”
“He looked sort of sad to me.”
“Daniel. Why do you care if he is? He’s been nothing but a jerk to you.”
“You’re right…I don’t know…” And I really don’t know why I was concerned about him.
I should have been happy to see him down and out, but I wasn’t. On a certain level I think I identified with Derek. I honestly don’t know shit about him, but I have some ideas. Before a month ago, I had never even seen him. What I do know something about, is loneliness. I know what loneliness can do to you too. It can rip you up. It can make you crazy. It can twist you, when you start to listen to the sound of your own voice in your head. I’ve spent a lot of time alone, with no company save the voice inside my head. Always reminding me how pathetic I am. How I am alone because I am worthless. A loser no one wants to be around. Tell yourself this enough, and you start to believe it. You start to get angry. You want to take that anger and put it on someone else. Make that person feel as worthless and miserable as you do.
With Derek, I don’t see a happy kid. I see an angry kid. Behind that anger, I see a sad kid. I truly don’t believe a bully, like Derek, is that way because they get off on hurting people. I see someone who is hurting and can’t figure out how to deal with it. ‘Misery loves company. My life sucks and now yours does too. You wouldn’t like me anyway, because no one likes me.’
For me loneliness is kind of an art form. In a sense, a path I’ve chosen. I do know how to deal with the negative thoughts that creep in, to a certain degree. I spend a lot time alone by choice. Once Mark moved away, there was no one here, in this isolated development. I had to learn how to deal with it, or I could have ended up like Derek.
When I saw Derek walk past me a little while ago, he seemed so dejected, defeated, and I think it’s all my fault. The last thing I wanted to do we destroy his spirit. I’m not in the business of teaching lessons.
As long as I can remember, hockey has been my great escape. A shield for me, to block all of life’s bullshit for a little while. A chance to focus on the mechanics that fit together in this fast moving, complex game. Maybe it’s the same for Derek. Maybe it’s the only time he gets to escape what life has dealt him as well. I’m certain, I ruined the scrimmage for him last night. I just hope I didn’t ruin hockey for him. There’s a chance he and I might end up on the same team this winter, and although you can’t be friends with everybody on your team, you can’t be enemies either…
Suddenly, I felt something squeeze, right between my legs!
“Hello! I’ve been trying to get your attention for like two minutes! Anybody home?” Kayla said, with her hand still lingering around my crotch.
“Umm…I was just thinking about a bunch of stuff.” I looked down at her hand and added “you having fun there?”
“Well, I had to get you out of your trance. Worked, didn’t it?…aaaand, yes I am.”
“Yeah. A punch in the arm would have worked too.”
“But this is so much more fun” she said, giving me a final squeeze, before finally taking her hand away.
I rolled my eyes and said “you soooooo need to get laid.”
“Ummm…yeah…so?” she responded, holding me with a gaze.
“So we’re at school. Let’s go” I said, reacting quickly.
We unloaded and headed for the building. Kayla was starting to get more aggressive with me again lately. I’m not too sure she wants to continue on this slow path with me. I think she’s getting frustrated. My belief that I am gay makes it even harder for me to picture a physical relationship with her. I love Kayla dearly, but I would be lying to both of us, if I started to get sexual with her. I mean she turns me on sometimes, but I think it’s just hormones or something. I know I don’t have all the answers, but I would be crushed, if I lost Kayla, now, or ever.