Football in Texas
It all started when dad made me sign up for football. I was really little, and when I told him I didn’t want to, he said, “It will turn you into the man you’re going to become,” and we didn’t say anything else for the rest of the car ride. And, looking back on it, I guess he was right, but not for the reasons he thought. I don’t know what else to say about dad other than the fact that he was like a lot of people’s dads. He worked a lot and always seemed pissed when he first got home until he took off his tie and his shoes and sat on the couch and had his first bourbon. He didn’t get nicer after that, but at least he seemed less pissed. He made me do my chores. Or—he made me listen to Mom, who made me do my chores. He told me to listen to Mom a lot. Whenever I complained about something or didn’t do what I was supposed to, he would tell me to shut up and listen to your mother. I always did it then. Well, that was back when they were still together. He was better before Mom took off.
The first time he hit me was on a Wednesday. I remember because I had football practice every Wednesday, and I had just come home from football practice, which I hated because it was always fucking hot outside. Whoever decided kids should put on twice their body weight in pads while knocking the lights out of each other in Texas is retarded. Texas is the worst place in the world to do that because it’s always so damn hot. And just around a million percent humidity. So I got back from football practice one day and told him just that: whoever came up with football was a retard and I hated it. I threw my pads on the ground and kicked them, and that’s when he hit me. He told me—well, yelled at me—something about the fact that he paid his hard-fucking-earned money for those pads and if I was going to fuck them up, he’d fuck me up. I don’t entirely remember because he was yelling it as he knocked the lights out of me. And, like I said, I had just thrown my pads on the ground, so I wasn’t wearing them anymore, and it was just his fist right against my face. I guess he pounded on my shoulders and back and stuff too because I had pretty bad bruises there for a couple weeks. I mean, those could have been from football practice earlier, but I had never had bruises that big from football. It was hard to sleep for the next few days because they hurt pretty bad. And I wasn’t great at football, but that’s when I figured out that I’d rather get the lights knocked out of me at practice by other kids my age while I’m wearing pads than by dad when he’s been drinking and I’m not wearing pads, so I didn’t complain about football anymore.
And besides, being in football got me laid, so I can’t complain about that either. I dated a cheerleader for a year and a half. She was the first girl I had sex with, and I thought it was kinda hot to have sex with a cheerleader. Well, she was on the B team. It was close enough because she was with all the popular A-team cheerleaders all the time and went to the A-team practices and bossed some of the A-team girls around. No one had the guts to tell her that she didn’t really belong there. But I don’t blame them, because the one time I told her that she didn’t belong there, she got really pissed. Like, pissed in the girl way where she wouldn’t have sex with me or talk to me when we were at her place, but she still held my hand at school and talked to me when other people were around. She also got pissed when I told her I wanted to quit football in the eleventh grade. At the time, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how to quit without dad noticing. I’d just stay out late on practice days and then carry my football pads home so it looked like I just came from practice. And he was usually pretty blitzed by the time I got home on practice days anyway, so he probably wouldn’t have noticed even if I didn’t have my pads. But my girlfriend got pissed when I told her the idea, so I couldn’t quit. She told me how dense I was, and then she explained how cheerleaders only dated football players, like it was some kind of official rule or something. I dunno what it was that made girls want to be popular and be cheerleaders and date football players. I knew plenty of cool girls that didn’t do any of those things. I mean, I never hung out with them, but it seems stupid that all girls just automatically think those are the most important things in the world. But she did, and she talked about it all the time. And then she ended up not even making the B-team when she tried out for cheerleading in twelfth grade, which I was pretty relieved about because then I could break up with her. I figured, she broke the rule first, so it was only fair.
The first time I had sex with a guy was right after that. It really wasn’t a big deal, except that I knew everyone would have made it into a big deal, so I didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t play football, but we had math together once in junior high, and then we just randomly had classes together every year, so we kinda knew each other. He was really smart. One of those guys who didn’t seem like much at first, but looked better and better the more you got to know him. It was weird how it happened. We were paired up for some science project. I was over at his house and his parents weren’t home, and I got the sense that it was because his parents actually trusted him. It happened like on movies and TV and shit where one thing led to another, and then we were having sex. I almost think he was into me just because I played football, so he thought of me as some jock, like in a porn. I guess I played it up, too, even though I’m not a big jock guy or anything. Like, I talked about getting pumped for the big game and how tough practice was but it was worth it when we won. I don’t know why I said that, because I didn’t care that much. Lots of the other guys that played football were way more like that than I was. Maybe I was the closest he could get. I dunno. Either way, he seemed really into it at first, but then weird about it when we were done.
We got a B on the project, which I was cool with, but I think he was used to getting As on everything. He never said that, but I just figured based on how his face looked when we got our grades back. We didn’t talk much after that. It pretty much went back to how things were when we only kinda knew each other, which I was fine with. I guess that’s one thing that’s better about guys than girls, because the cheerleader girl, or non-cheerleader now, was a bitch to me after I broke up with her, but only when she wasn’t busy not talking to me. The science guy never pulled that kinda shit. But she had really long brown hair that I liked putting my fingers through, and that science guy had shit in his hair that made it crunchy and I couldn’t run my fingers through it. I even wrote a poem about it in English class when Mr. Shelton made us write our own poem for extra credit:
Long and wispy
Or short and crispy
I touch your hair
While you kiss me
I know it’s dumb, and it’s really short and the third line doesn’t rhyme with any of the others, but I still liked it okay. Apparently poetry can be whatever the hell you want, which was surprising to me because I always thought it was a bunch of lines that rhymed the last word. But I didn’t end up turning mine in because it had to do with kissing, and I didn’t know if that would make Mr. Shelton mad. Teachers got mad all the time when they saw kids kissing in the hallways at school, or sometimes even holding hands too close. And my dumb poem wasn’t worth getting in trouble over, so I threw away the paper that I wrote it on, but it didn’t matter because I had it memorized ever since I first wrote it. I doodled it on random papers now and then when I was bored in class or when I was locked in my room at home, but I usually threw those papers away, too.
And I wasn’t bored in class too much because there were other football guys in most of my classes, so I usually goofed off with them instead of listening. Whenever guys from football were in the same class, they always had to sit together for some reason, usually in the back of the class where they could mess around and the teacher would just ignore them. And I didn’t really care where I sat one way or another, so I usually sat with them and messed around, too. I also didn’t really care about any of my classes, so I would rather mess around with the football guys since they were all supposed to be my friends. I liked Mr. Shelton, though, which made it hard to hang out with the football guys at the same time. They’d be hitting each other on the arm or talking about some girl a few rows up, and I’d actually be taking notes. Every now and then, someone would say something to me, but it didn’t really matter to me, so I just kept paying attention to Mr. Shelton and they left me alone. It wasn’t fun to mess with someone who doesn’t care they’re getting messed with, and I realized later that that’s the only reason no one ever messed with me. But I didn’t mess with anyone else either, so I just got by in high school by hanging out with the cool people without actually being too popular.
One of the guys asked a girl to prom during English class once. I was annoyed because I was really interested in what Mr. Shelton was teaching that day. Something about American poets and Emily Dickinson. He was looking at this poem she wrote and analyzing this stuff about what she said but what she really meant and what a slant rhyme is. I liked the idea that something that should be perfect like a rhyme can sound really close, almost like it was supposed to, but a little different, and everyone can still hear it like it’s a totally normal rhyme. Or they might think it’s a little weird, but they don’t really know why and it doesn’t make the poem any less a poem. So the guy asked this girl to prom, which meant I was supposed to ask the only other girl in our group who wasn’t dating anyone else in the group. Most of them were already dating each other, so when this one guy asked that girl to prom during my English class, it just made the rest obvious. And then everyone was excited about prom, even though it wasn’t for another few months, and we got off-topic during class talking about senior skip day, which is always the week before prom. That was the day that all the seniors were supposed to not go to school and do something else instead, but it just ended up being all the football guys skipping to get drunk. We knew that the teachers didn’t care for that one day—we were almost done with high school, so they couldn’t force us to learn any more. I remember Mr. Shelton seemed a little disappointed that we didn’t care about missing class, even though it was like three whole months away. But he was cool, so he told us he wouldn’t do anything if we weren’t there. I mean, he didn’t actually say it out loud, but he pretty much said it. That day, after class, I slowed down and acted like I was packing up until everyone else was gone, and I told Mr. Shelton that I liked his class and I was sorry I would miss it. He smiled, like he really, really meant it, and he looked me in the eyes and told me, “Thank you, Ryan.”
I ran into Erica (she was the girl that I was supposed to ask to prom) in the hallway after that, and I didn’t end up asking her to prom just then. I was kinda nervous because Erica was really pretty. I think I kinda liked her, but I didn’t know for sure because we barely ever hung out just the two of us. There were other girls that I thought were way hotter, but they all had boyfriends already. Plus, Erica sometimes said funny things, and I like when a girl is funny, too. Most of the guys only care about how big a girl’s tits are or if she’ll let you try anal. One of the guys was going out with this girl that he didn’t even like, but she was the hottest one in the group. They called her Tonya Backdoor when she wasn’t around because her real name was Tonya Becker and apparently she let guys do that kinda stuff to her since she was Catholic and was supposed to be a virgin until marriage. I guess God doesn’t really care what you do, as long as you don’t have full-on sex. I was actually relieved when I heard that because it made me think maybe I wasn’t going to go to hell for having sex with that science guy. I know homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says that it’s an abomination to lie with a man, but we did it standing up, and if it’s cool for guys to fuck Tonya Backdoor up the ass, I think that means it’s okay that I fucked that science guy up the ass. Plus, it was only that once, and I didn’t really know the rules because our family never went to church. We did when I was little, but we stopped right before mom left. The last time we went was this one Sunday when dad drove us there after he had already had like half a bottle of Old Crow. I remember because mom never said anything about him drinking, but this time she did. And it turned out mom was right, because dad ended up crashing the car in the church parking lot. Mom never said that was the reason we stopped going, but I figured that was why because we didn’t go to church anymore after that. So I have to just listen to what other people say and hope that God sees I did my best and he lets me into heaven, even if I didn’t follow every single one of the rules.
It was weird when they split up, mom and dad. Whenever my friends’ parents got a divorce, they all went with their mom, so I dunno why I stayed with dad. Maybe it was because mom didn’t have a job, or maybe dad actually wanted me. He got mom pregnant on accident when they were in college. Dad told me all the time because he said he coulda gone pro if he wanted. I’ve seen his gut, though. Maybe as a lineman. But instead, he had to quit college before he even started his freshman year and get two jobs right away to pay for everything. His parents didn’t have any money either, so dad had to work a bunch to make enough money to feed us and stuff. And mom ended up dropping out of college too, but I don’t really know why, because she didn’t work or anything. Dad reminded me about all of this every time he got super drunk, which was a lot. He said a man should drink and play football, and he told me I should appreciate being in football and all the stuff I had because he never had the stuff I had. I just think he liked telling people he coulda gone pro.
So, instead of going home right away after school, I started hanging out with Mr. Shelton. No, wait, hanging out sounds weird since he was a teacher and all. English was my last class of the day, so when I didn’t have football practice, I just ended up sticking around more and more until it was just what I did. When I first started doing it, I stayed for a minute or two, and I would ask a dumb question, something about what he had taught in class. I forget what kind of things I asked. But he would smile and answer my question. “Thanks,” I would say. “You’re welcome, Ryan,” he always said back. Then I would leave. And I kept doing that until eventually I started asking about stuff other than class. “What made you decide to be a teacher?” I asked him once. He told me about how he really liked English, and he liked reading and writing, and he liked being a TA in college, so he ended up being a teacher. I almost told him that I liked to write stuff, but, like I said before, the stuff I wrote wasn’t that great, and none of the football guys were into writing, so I didn’t end up saying anything about it. “What do you want to do after high school, Ryan?” he asked me. I told him I thought I would go to community college nearby because I had been accepted, even though I wanted to leave home and go somewhere else. But Dad didn’t have the kind of money that other kids’ dads had to pay for a better school. I didn’t tell Mr. Shelton that part, just the part about getting accepted at community college. “But what do you want to go to community college for? What do you want to study?” I hadn’t really thought about it. No one had asked me that before. And I told him that no one had asked me that before. “What does your dad think?” he asked. I didn’t really know what to say because I didn’t talk to dad about that, or much of anything really, other than football and getting yelled at when I got in trouble. “He’s okay with whatever I want to do,” I lied. I think Mr. Shelton knew I was lying, because he just smiled like he always did and said, “there’s plenty of time for you to figure out what you want. You’ll know it when you find it.” That’s when I realized that Mr. Shelton was smart. Not just smart with English and books, but really smart, like about real life stuff.
There was another time, a few days before senior skip day, when I stayed behind like I normally did, and I asked Mr. Shelton if he went to his prom. He said that he did, and that he had a great time. “Did you end up marrying the girl you went with?” I asked him. He laughed and told me that he didn’t, and that he wasn’t actually married. I guess I had never really thought that he might not be married. He asked me who I was going with. I told him I had asked Erica and she said yes and how I liked her, but I didn’t know if she liked me, and everyone was going to someone’s parents’ cabin afterwards. I slowed down when I started talking about the cabin because I remembered that Mr. Shelton was still a teacher, even though I had talked to him about lots of different stuff. “What did you do after prom?” I asked. He told me about how one of his friends had a party, so he went there. I grinned and I asked him if he drank, and he said yes, there was drinking but he was safe and spent the night rather than drinking and driving. Even though I was the one that asked, I was a little surprised that he told me about drinking because most teachers just said not to do it at all and didn’t say anything else. I think it’s because he told me about drinking that I told him I wasn’t sure if Erica would want to hang out alone after prom, just the two of us, or not, and I was kinda worried about it. I think he got that I was talking about sex even though I didn’t say the word because he got a little red, and I was nervous that I shouldn’t have told him that. But then he told me he thought that it was a normal thing to think, and most people are probably worrying about the same thing as I was. And he said that I should just pay attention to how I’m feeling and how she’s feeling and not to feel pressured, but only hang out alone if we both wanted to. And then, at the end, he said that I should be safe and bring protection. I groaned a little bit, but I secretly kinda liked that he said that. All the other teachers at school just told us not to have sex, and they made us sign an abstinence pledge, and they showed us pictures of people with STDs, which was pretty dumb because there was no way I wasn’t going to have sex. It feels really good and everyone else does it, and I haven’t gotten an STD before, so I didn’t see what the problem was. But Mr. Shelton wasn’t like other teachers, or even other adults really. I think he was the only adult that actually talked to me like I was an adult, too.
But anyway, a couple days later, we all went out for senior skip day, and the football guys decided to go out to a bar the next town over and get shit-faced and spend the night. Most of them had to lie and tell their parents that they were staying with another person. I just told dad I was leaving and wouldn’t be back until the next morning. I don’t really remember his reaction because I just left after that. I think he was only just starting his second coffee of the morning. My friends had joked about going to a gay bar, but I didn’t really get the joke. And it’s like, they had to keep joking about it so everyone knew that it was joke, like slapping each other on the ass and pretending like they were going to kiss each other until one person got too grossed out and stopped. I just really didn’t care. And, of course, we didn’t end up going to a gay bar because we went to the same sports bar the football guys always go to when they go out. I walked in the bar behind everyone and I got out my fake ID. Oh, that was another good thing about football. Everyone got a fake ID just by being in it. I didn’t even have to ask or anything. When I made the team my freshman year, someone just gave me a fake ID and then took me out to a bar and got me shit-faced drunk. I didn’t mind it. If someone had asked if I wanted to get a fake ID and go to a bar and get shit-faced drunk, I don’t know what I would have said. I might have wanted to in a way because it was something I could do that dad couldn’t stop me from doing. I mean, he liked when I did things with the football guys for some reason, even if we weren’t playing football. I don’t know if he knew that we went out drinking, but I almost think he wouldn’t have cared. Someone who’s drunk that much can’t really care if someone else drinks.
So everyone was playing pool and hanging out at the bar. I just hung back like I usually did. I liked sitting down and watching stuff. Every once in a while, someone would tell me to come play a game of darts or chug a beer with them, which I did, but then I would just sit back down after. They were all there to get rowdy and stuff. I couldn’t tell if the bartender knew we were underage, but I think he did, but I also think he didn’t really care. Maybe he played football when he was in high school and did exactly what we were doing, so he wasn’t going to say anything. It was near the end of the night when I think one of the football guys hit on me. We were both pretty drunk and we were sitting at the bar, and all the other guys were making bets about who could get some girl’s number, which was dumb because she was way hotter than all of them, so I would have bet on her if I could. But me and Jake (that’s the other football guy who I think hit on me) were up at the bar drinking, and it just kinda happened where we ended up sitting next to each other and our legs were touching. When they touched at first, he just kept on talking about whatever shit he was talking about. I couldn’t focus because I was wondering if he would move his leg away from mine. He didn’t, so I didn’t either, and I tried to listen to what he was saying. Something about how beer was made or the types of beers that he liked. Even though I didn’t care what he was talking about, I liked hearing his voice. So I kept asking just enough questions, like “No shit?” or “Really?” that he kept going. I took the last drink from my beer and put it down, and I put my hand on the bar, right between the two of us. He put his hand on top of mine and kept talking. My heart stopped beating, but it also started beating really fast, and I didn’t know what to do. But he kept on talking about hops and malt and stuff, so I just left it.
That’s when the bartender walked up. I was going to ask for another beer, but before I could say anything, he looked down at our hands touching. His face kinda scrunched up, like he just saw a big spider with wings and claws and it was speaking Spanish or something. The bartender looked at both of us and back down to our hands, and by then I had slid my hand out from under Jake’s and back to my side. Jake must have been really drunk because he didn’t notice and he was still talking a whole lot. The bartender looked like he was winding up, like he was about to yell at us or hit us, when we heard a crash. Jake stopped talking for the first time in about twenty minutes, and we all looked behind us to see the girl surrounded by football guys. Her chair had crashed on the ground and she was standing up at the table. Some of the guys were trying to grab her ass and saying things like how much did she cost and who would she do if she had to pick one to go first. The bartender ran from behind the bar towards them, and somehow, as he ran around, he picked up a gun, which he held up and pointed at all the guys and yelled, “Get the fuck outta here.” Everyone immediately dropped the game they were putting on, and it was like they went from drunk to sober in a split second. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel Jake move away a little bit, like he got sober, too. The bartender then turned and pointed the gun at me and Jake and said, “Especially you two.” We all left the bar really quiet and careful, like when we walked into the locker room after a game we had just lost and we knew coach was pissed at us. It’s a weird thing to have a gun pointed at you. You know that he could shoot you dead if he really wanted to, for any reason at all. Maybe even just because he didn’t like you.
The next day, everyone asked what I had said that made the bartender so pissed at me, and I told them I didn’t know. And I really didn’t. I mean, I kinda did, but they were the ones that were practically attacking someone, so I didn’t really get why I was worse than all of them when I was just sitting at the bar and talking. I ended up saying, “The bartender was probably a faggot or something.” I didn’t plan to say it, and I didn’t actually mean it. It just came out. I heard the other guys call people they didn’t like faggots all the time, so I guess I thought it would get everyone to stop asking me about it. And it worked, because all the guys laughed and said that he was probably a faggot and started making fun of him so they didn’t have to talk about how scared shitless they had all been. Jake stayed really quiet the entire time, like he didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t remember what had happened because he was too drunk, or if he just didn’t want to talk about it. Either way, everyone must have thought I was really tough for having a gun pointed at my face because it seemed like the football guys thought I was cooler after that. From then on, they would always make their hands into guns and point them at me when they saw me in the hallway. And I would laugh, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. I even got two detentions for it this one time. A teacher saw them doing hand guns at me in the hallway, and she said that it was inappropriate and that we were acting out. I didn’t actually do anything—it was the other football guys that were doing it at me—but I got in trouble too because I was walking with them and everyone just groups all the football guys together. “What would Mom have said?” dad asked when I told him. I was still pissed about it, so I said, “Nothing. Mom isn’t here.” Later, I felt really bad about saying that because this time, it didn’t feel like he was yelling at me. It felt like he was actually asking me what Mom would have said. Like he didn’t know what to do. I came down from my room that night to apologize, but I saw him passed out on the couch, so I just made dinner and went to bed.
The next day, I walked into English class and there was a substitute teacher standing at the front. I was a little disappointed. I liked hanging out after school talking to Mr. Shelton. Plus, subs usually just made us watch a video or do a stupid worksheet, and I actually liked the stuff Mr. Shelton taught. Then the sub said, “As some of you may know, Mr. Shelton is no longer teaching at this school. He’s decided to move on for personal reasons. I’m going to be-” What the fuck? was all I could think. I stopped listening to her. How could Mr. Shelton not tell me? What the fuck? I leaned over to one of the football guys sitting next to me. “Where did Mr. Shelton go?” “You didn’t hear?” he said with a smile on his face. “Sean’s mom saw him out with a dude.” His smile got even bigger, to where I could see all of his teeth. I was about to say, “So?” when he added, “on a date. Sean’s mom caught him on a date with a guy. And they kissed. Right out in public.” “Oh,” I said. The guy’s smile went down a little bit at the corners and he just stared at me. It took me a couple seconds, probably a little too long, to realize he was waiting for my reaction. “Oh, that’s weird,” I said, because I couldn’t think of anything better to say. I guess it was an okay response because the guy smiled really big again. “I fucking called it! Hey, John, didn’t I fucking call that shit?” He hit the guy in front of him on the back, another football guy. John turned around. “Didn’t I call that shit, John? I knew Mr. Shelton was queer the second I saw him.” “Yeah, how’d you know?” John asked back, and he smiled, too. “Did you suck his dick?” “Fuck you, dude. I sucked your mom’s dick.” “So you’re saying you do suck dick?” They started hitting each other, but I didn’t care and I was annoyed, so I interrupted. “So what happened to Mr. Shelton then?” John said, “Why, are you going to go find him and suck his dick, too?” Luckily, the other guy wanted to show off about all the stuff he knew more than he wanted to joke and bullshit around, so he told me, “Sean’s mom told the principal, and when the principal asked, Mr. Shelton told them he was a fag. So I guess Mr. Shelton quit and went somewhere else. Probably to Rio West. They’re a bunch of queers already, so they wouldn’t mind one more.” The two guys kept making fag jokes and hitting each other while the sub tried to figure out how to play the video, so I started doodling on my paper. I think the guys were trying to get me to joke along with them, but I just ignored them and eventually they stopped trying and started yelling at the guy on the other side of them. I looked down and realized I had written “Long and wispy” on my paper. I stopped and I stared at my pen. Then I crumbled up the paper, even though it was my English homework that was supposed to be due that day. I just put my head on my desk for the rest of the class. And sure enough, the sub never even asked us to turn in our English homework, which I was kinda annoyed at, even though I should have been happy since I had crumpled my paper up.
Prom was soon after that, and I had to take dad’s car to drive me and Erica. He didn’t tell me I could take it, and I didn’t ask. I figured either he’d be too drunk to realize I took it, or he’d figure it out and knock the lights out of me, but he would probably knock the lights out of me for some other reason anyway, so it didn’t really matter what I did. But I did give him an extra-strong drink and waited for him to pass out on the couch, so I guess I was trying to hide it. But anyway, I went in dad’s car to get Erica, and I felt bad because she looked really pretty and I had this shitty car. Her parents took pictures of us and asked where my parents were, and I just lied and said that dad was out of town so could I just get copies of their pictures because he would like to see them. I don’t know if they believed me, but they went along with it, and no one had to care who was telling the truth. I took Erica to meet up with the group for dinner. I thought about telling her in the car how pretty she looked, but I kept getting nervous. My heart was beating really fast, and one time she even smiled at me and touched my shoulder and I think my heart stopped beating for a second and then it kept going even faster. I was feeling stupid in Dad’s beat-up car and his beat-up suit that only kinda fit me. Oh, I didn’t tell dad I was taking his suit either, so that was one more thing I tried to sneak past him.
Once we got to dinner, everyone was hanging out and having fun, and even though it was prom, things were actually pretty normal, except for we were all dressed up. A few people snuck liquor in flasks and water bottles, and everyone poured some into their sodas which was good because it helped make me a little more relaxed. When we were done, we got back in the car and this time I told Erica she was pretty. I think the liquor helped a little. Okay, it helped a whole lot. I was glad I said it though because she smiled really big and I thought maybe I had a chance with her. All the other guys were talking about how they were going nail the bitch they took to prom, and I guess that was what a lot of guys tried to do. And to be honest, I wanted to too because I liked having sex and Erica was really hot, but I just didn’t know if she would do it with me, so I figured Mr. Shelton was right that I should just see how the night went.
Okay, I haven’t really told anyone this before, but here’s the really bad part. The rest of the night goes on like usual. Someone spiked the punch, so we all kept drinking and we were dancing to songs and having a pretty good time. Our group still had liquor from one of the flasks we brought, so we would pass it around on the dance floor since it was dark and the teachers couldn’t see, and I actually danced even though I didn’t usually dance, probably some because I had been drinking but also some because I was just having fun. Erica and I danced on our own for some songs, dancing really close to each other so I had to position myself just right so she didn’t feel my hard-on (that’s not the bad part, that’s just what you have to do as a teenage guy). I even thought I might kiss her a couple times, but I didn’t and then my chance was gone and we were back dancing with the whole group again. I looked over and saw Jake, and he was hanging out on the side of the dance floor, so I walked over and slipped him the flask. He already seemed a little drunk, and I didn’t know where his date was, but it was prom so whatever. He said we should go somewhere that no one could see, which was true because there were teachers walking all around. So we found a bathroom, not the closest bathroom; it was a few bathrooms down where no one would think to look. We both took a few drinks from the flask, and then Jake kissed me. I felt bad about it. I mean, it felt great. He was really hot and I liked him and we were kissing and both wearing suits, but I was there with Erica, so it was kinda shitty of me. And there was a little bit of me that knew it was shitty at the time, but there was a lot of me that really wanted to, so I kept doing it. I could hear Mr. Shelton’s voice in my head asking me, like he had done lots of times after class, “What do you want to do, Ryan?” And I know he was talking about things like what I wanted to study in college and he wasn’t talking about doing something like this, but I thought about it anyway and decided that this was what I wanted to do right now.
And then it got worse, because Erica walked in. I guess she had seen me and Jake walk off with the flask and followed behind us to join in on the drinking, and then she walked into the bathroom and saw us kissing. You should have seen her face. I don’t think she could have been more surprised if she had just walked in on a moose fucking a dinosaur. She stood there with her mouth open, like she was frozen in place. And we were frozen in place too, so everything was just frozen. And then all of a sudden, everything became unfrozen, and it went like this: Jake and I pushed away from each other in a dumb hope that we could play it off, Erica ran out the door, I looked back at Jake and then took off after Erica because where the fuck was she going and shit what was she going to do, and I realized holy shit she was going back to the dance floor with everyone and why was she going there, and I followed her and I tried to call out her name Erica Erica Erica but she wouldn’t even turn around and look at me and she got to the center of our group on the dance floor and I got there not too long after her but by that time everyone else was staring me.
Everyone. Staring. At me.
And I just stood there.
Erica finally turned around. “You faggot,” she said with a terrible look of fuck you on her face. But like, here’s the part that’s really really bad. I didn’t plan it. I couldn’t have. I didn’t know any of it was going to happen. I acted totally normal. I asked her what she was talking about, and she said you know damn well, and I kept playing like I didn’t, until finally someone said, “We know you and Jake were making out.” “What?” I said. I put on my best surprised face. Everyone looked behind me and I looked over and saw Jake walk up. I said, “Erica was trying to hook up with Jake and Jake turned her down, and then she tried with me and I turned her down, too. She’s just pissed and lying to get back at us.” Everyone looked at Erica, and her face was back in that shocked face, almost as shocked as when she walked into the bathroom. It was quiet until finally one of the football guys said, “What the fuck, Erica. You’re such a fucking liar,” and pretty soon all the other football guys were yelling at Erica about how she was a whore and a liar and she should just leave. Like I said, I know it’s all really bad but I didn’t know what else to do, and it just kinda happened. It was weird though, almost nice that all the football guys took my side, even though I know it’s terrible. It was the one time I was happy that I played football, and all the practice and wearing pads in the million-percent humidity and getting hit was worth it, because it was like everyone was on my team. Or maybe they all just decided they would rather believe that Erica is a lying whore than think one of the guys on the football team actually kissed another guy on the football team. I looked over at Jake, and he wasn’t saying anything. And I was worried because he wasn’t looking at Erica like the rest of the guys. Jake looked over at me, and then at Erica, and I didn’t know what he was going to do, but I honestly didn’t know what I wanted him to do, either. The last thing I heard before Erica ran off the dance floor was Jake calling her a liar, just like me.
Kyle Getz is a Seattle-based writer that explores authentic emotions with cynical humor. He writes short fiction, poetry, essays, screenplays, and amazing self-biographies. He has published work on the comments section of YouTube and his mother’s fridge. Kyle has been called “a fresh new face to watch” by his parole officer. Selected work is available on his website, WhatKyleWants.com. Selected by Ahsan Butt.
Image © Elvert Barnes via Flickr Creative Commons.