What He Hid, His Strength

It was Monday the 18th of October 2010 and I was lounging on a curvy branch in the tree standing guard outside my house. As I lay there I stared expectantly at the road waiting for my best friend Nathan to arrive. It was a beautiful autumn day and the sun was up and shining with only a few wispy clouds lazily floated across the blue sky. With the undiminished sunlight shining all day, the frigid mid-October morning had risen to the comfortable temperature of 65F. I couldn’t wait to waste the day away with Nathan.
It was one of those perfect days that we would usually spend exploring the woods behind my house or having a contest to see who could climb the apple trees faster or pick the largest apple. I shifted my weight onto another branch to get more comfortable and continued to stare towards the road expectantly. After a few more minutes I heard the familiar rattling of Nathan’s old beat up pick-up truck coming from around the corner.
His mom parked her rusty, mud covered red ford outside my house down the front steps. As soon as the car stopped moving the passenger door flew open and a very excited Nathan raced from the truck with his backpack opened and shoved precariously under his arm. I laughed at the sight; his backpack looked as though it was trying to force its way out of his grip on his mad dash to my door. I noticed he didn’t have a coat on as usual, but a long sleeve shirt on, what was I ever going to do with him? He knows my mom hates it when he comes without a coat; at least he had a long sleeve shirt on this time. I dropped out of the tree with a huge smile on my face, glad Nathan was happy today, and landed with a soft thump.
Ever sense Nathan had come out of the closet in 6th grade; Mondays were always the hardest for us. It seemed almost as if the school had spent the weekend planning exactly what new form of torment they would perform in school the next week. Usually it took me a while to get him this smiley and happy, I wonder what cheered him up so much today?
“You forgot your coat again!?” I proclaimed grabbing his shoulder and giving him a slight shake, though he didn’t move very much.
Nathan flipped around with a startled cry and finally lost his grip on his open backpack. It crashed to the ground and spilled its contents all over the semi-frozen ground. I was surprised to see multicolored pieces of candy ranging from yellow dot boxes to chocolate Hersey bars covering the steps up to my door. Nathan grinned at me guiltily.
“I found my old stash of Halloween candy…?” He offered running his hand sheepishly through his died black hair. “And…it’s in the wash…?” I laughed at his excuse and dropped to my knees to help him stuff his sugary surprise back into his bag.
Nathan was in simplest terms, extremely handsome and anyone would be blind not to see that. But recently people in school have been ignoring his outgoing friendly attitude and handsome features and only focusing on the fact that he was gay.
Nathan was really tall at 6’1’’ and he easily towered over my height of 5’ and a half inches. He had dark tanned skin from working in the yard with his dad all summer, a stocky build and broad shoulders. His hair was died black like usual and he had let it grow long this summer, it reached just below his ears and gave him a cute bad boy look, much better than when he had it cut short. He had on a pair of black skinny jeans and a foggy black long sleeved tee-shirt with a foggy white blue pattern on it. The shirt was actually one of his favorites. He called it his twilight shirt and I’ve memorized his description of it I’ve heard it so many times. “It’s as if the fog is rising and catching the first rays of the moon turning it silver and blue as the darkness descends.” I have to agree, his description matches perfectly.
While he looked as though he had come straight from school, or a teen fashion magazine, I looked about as pathetic as usual next to him. I had on a pair of multi-pocketed black cargo pants that were way to long for me and a thick over used faded leather belt I had stolen from my dad a few years ago. My pockets were filled with an arrangement of things such as string, nuts, nails, bolts, washers, screws and a mini screwdriver set, basically anything I could find and possible need around the farm. On a place as big as this, you never know what’s going to break on you this time. Along with that I had my usual exploration and fix-it junk consisting of my Swiss army knife, binoculars and my switchblade. It might have been a little too much, but it was hunting season and we were most likely going to be exploring the woods until after dark, I never know what I’ll need. To go with my already outgoing attire I had on a white tank top with a loose cropped semi-shirt with elbow length sleeves and the words, “Warning Dangerous!” printed across the front in bright red letters. Wearing that with my beat up black combats, plus all the accoutrements, I looked more like a kick-ass tom-boy than Nathan did. Lie usual, the two of us made a perfect and very strange pair.
“So what’s got you in such a great mood?” I asked gently ramming my shoulder into his, “You usually aren’t this cheery until I’ve fallen out of at least 3 trees and nearly killed myself in the gopher fields a couple of times!” He laughed, as I hoped he would and popped a sweat tart into his mouth. He held out his hand offering me one witch I gladly received, before answering.
“That’s actually something I needed to talk to you about…” He said, and insecurity ate up his smile like hungry piranhas. I smiled at his encouraging and grabbed his hand in mine giving it a reassuring squeeze. Whatever he needed to tell me must have him thinking it would change my thoughts about him, but I never would. He never had to worry about me abandoning him. Seeing my encouragement and reassurance he slowly smiled back. I wonder what he wanted to tell me.
“Wan’na go inside and talk?” I offered, “I’ll make hot chocolate?” Nathan gave a small sigh of relief and grabbed his backpack.
“That would be great.” He said and we walked into the house. Little did I know what Nathan had to tell me would change our middle and high school lives drastically.
We entered the house through the kitchen door, my front door had broken a couple years ago and was never fixed, and we didn’t use it anymore. Nathan dropped his bag to the floor with a crinkly thump and helped himself to one of the bar stools we had surrounding our counter. I walked over to the sink and grabbed two mugs from the cabinet. As in tradition in our house none of our dishes, silver wear, cups, or mugs matched. In one hand I had a mug with snoopy in pajamas on it and in the other a brown mug with a raised marble colored owl on it. I put them on the counter and added the hot chocolate mix and milk.
“I want Snoopy!” Nathan exclaimed as I went to put them in the microwave I sighed dramatically. I punched in the numbers and turned around slowly with a pained look on my face.
“Fine…” I sighed hanging my head trying to contain my laugher at my obviously horrible acting skills. Nathan clapped his hands like a little kid and cheered. When our chocolate drinks were done I grabbed them out of the microwave and the two of us headed up to my room.
I have to say this now; a person’s room is usually a mirror of their personality. They would be painted with their favorite colors and maybe have posters from their favorite bands or TV characters around the room. My room was the opposite of me about as much as possible. My walls were sunshine yellow with bright hot pink boarder around the edges of my slanted ceiling. My floors were the same color as the border and made my room resembled a yellow and pink flower.
My room looked small and crowded, and I can’t say it wasn’t at least cozy. My full sized bed took up over half the room on its own! A night stand, two bureaus, and a full floor to ceiling bookcase and a desk took up the rest of my wall border and most of the room space left available. My bookcase was already stocked full and I had piles of books also laying haphazardly thrown around the room and stuck in random nooks and crannies.
I named the small space between my bed, the bookcase, and one of my bureaus, my “Reading Corner” and adequately so as it was right in front of the bookcase. I had a plush, shaggy black and beige rug on the floor and multiple black and green bean bags covering most of the floor along with a few random pillows. I have to say, my corner was probably the only spot in my small slanted room that really reflected my personality.
We entered my room and I put my already half empty cup of hot chocolate on top of the bookcase before throwing myself onto one of the bean bags and grabbing a pillow to hug out of habit. Nathan sat on my desk chair backwards and stared thoughtfully into his cup. I shifted into my bag chair and looked up at him as the awkward silence grew defending in my small cramped room. We sat there for a few minutes before the silence felt like it would suffocate me and I had to speak.
“So…um….what did you want to talk about? “I tried and got up from my seat to turn on the radio I had next to my bed. The station I had been listening to last night started to filter through the room and I returned to my spot on the beanbags satisfied I had stopped the silence. When I looked up at him Nathan looked as though he was fighting with himself on what to say and getting frustrated.
“I don’t know where to start” He finally admitted and drank from his chocolate cup. I smiled at his confused.
“Start at the beginning?” I suggested and laughed uncomfortably trying to lighten the mood. The awkward silence began again, this time with words from whatever song was playing echoing around the room. I began to guess at what he wanted to tell me that was so hard for him to say. Was he moving? Was he dying of some mysterious illness and had only a few days left to live? Was he a wizard and going to Hogwarts? (I have a very over reactive imagination). When the silence once again reached its breaking point and I felt as if the room would explode unless someone spoke, Nathan finally started.
“So you know how schools been really hard for me now and days?” He started off cautiously, “Well…it’s gotten too much for me to handle everything…” He trailed off here and I picked up where he ended.
“Too hard for you to handle everything? I thought it was finally getting a little better. I mean not so many people came up to you in the hallways today, and people have stopped trying to get me to stop hanging out with you, like I would even consider it.” I countered, trying to understand what Nathan was getting at.
“You don’t know half of it Kit-Kat” He said in a strangled voice. I waited for him to continue but he just sat there.
“Well, tell me…” I said pathetically, saddened to see my best friend so upset over something I couldn’t understand.
“You don’t know about the e-mails, and the pictures in my locker, the snide remarks after school and on the bus. The MySpace and Facebook pages people have made about me with things that aren’t true and all the text messages and calls I’ve gotten from people…” He cut off here with something resembling a gasp and turned my desk chair around quickly so his back was to me. I saw his shoulders shaking slightly and quickly stood up and went to stand by his side.

I turned him back around and enveloped his in a hug. I could feel him crying into my shoulder and the tears soaking through my double layered shirt, but I didn’t care. How could Nathan be this badly hurt and I not know anything about it? I asked myself in despair. I heard the words from a familiar Three Days Grace song begin to play on the radio;

Give me reason to stay here
Cause I don’t want to live in fear
I can’t stop the rain
But you can stop the tears
You can fight the fire
But I can’t fight the fear

I felt as if the music was telling me to help him, stay with him. And I would. For what felt like hours Nathan sat in the desk chair and I stood hugging him as he cried into my shoulder. I wouldn’t let go till he was done. Finally he pulled back and looked into my face. I realized I had tears running down my face to and he smiled wobbly at me as I lowered myself to the floor and wiped at my tears. Nathan followed me and I found the two of us laying on the beanbags facing the ceiling our shoulders touching and our hands clasped in each other’s.
Laying there on the floor Nathan and I talked. About everything. That day, he taught me what true strength was. When I learned everything he had gone through in detail, exactly all the things our school had done, I felt sick inside. I hadn’t known. I felt so stupid I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes of my own friends torment.
He showed me his strength when he told me about the argument he had had with his mom when he got home from school. He had told her he was gay and she hadn’t taken it well, maybe even worse than the school and that was saying something. His mom had threatened to disown him because being gay went against her religion and it wasn’t a holy thing to be. She told him that I would abandon him when I found out and things got tough. When he told her I already knew, and had known for years, she had told him he couldn’t see me anymore. So that’s why she hadn’t come up to say hello when she dropped him off. I felt so bad for my broken friend. And I vowed the two of us would stay friend and in touch forever.
Lastly, I learned the limits of his strength when he admitted to me something that truly broke my heart. When the torment in school had gotten to its breaking point, Nathan had tried to kill himself. I made him promise me that day, that very second, if he ever had thoughts like that again he would call me. Even if it was at three in the morning on a school day. I wasn’t going to let him go through it alone ever again.
Throughout the rest of the year and the summer I got numerous calls from Nathan. More than I can count. But we always talked through it, even when his mom took away his phone privileges. I am sad to say that summer was the hardest for me I have ever had. Having Nathan so heartbroken and depressed had me working twice as hard to get him to smile on the rare occasions we saw each other and being happy when I could get the usually happy and joyful boy to laugh. I was truly heartbroken. I learned my own strength that summer on late night calls and hushed conversations.
I am happy to say now that Nathan is going back to a public school next year and his parents are finally giving him his privileges to socialize with the rest of the world again, even if they haven’t quite accepted him for who he is. The two of us will be having some much needed time together very soon. Through this problem, though it was hard and heartbreaking and dangerously sad, brought the two of us closer together. We’re more like siblings than friends now. I will never again let Nathan suffer alone, that’s the strength I learned and found during this time, that’s the lesson Nathan taught me. That is why he is my hero. And I will always stand by him.
Through it all, one other element taught both of us a valuable lesson;

In this world you tried
Not leaving me alone behind
There’s no other way
And I prayed to the gods let him stay
The memories ease the pain inside
And now I know why

All of our memories keep you near
In silent moments I imagine you here
All of our memories keep you near
Through silent whispers and silent tears

Made me promise I’d try
To find my way back in this life
I hope there is a way
To give you a sign I’m ok
Remind me again it’s worth it all
So I can go on

All of our memories keep you near
In silent moments I imagine you here
All of our memories keep you near
Through silent whispers and silent tears

Together in all these memories
I see our smiles
All the memories we hold dear
Till the end of time

All of our memories keep you near
In silent moments I imagine you here
All of our memories keep you here
Through silent whispers and silent tears
All of our memories

When the two of us can’t be there in person, music will always remind us we’re there in spirit. Music can be anything you want it to be, and it’s always there, all you have to do is sing with your soul, and listen with all your heart.

The songs included in this were "Memories" by Within Temptation and "No More" by Three Days Grace.





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Ceartais said...
Nov. 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm
It's a good story, I'm glad you didn't abandon your friend.  
 
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