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Stranger in my own Skin
I can’t call myself a knight in shining armor. I’m just Ian the freak. I’m the ‘interesting’ fellow who likes to parade around like Sid Vicious in nothing but British flag boxers at the park. Simple to say my attempt to contain a situation is a bit medieval.
Tara was the rambunctious fifteen year old twin of my two younger sisters. She’s the average pretty and popular young freshman with bleached blond hair and pretty blue eyes coated with layers of makeup. The black sheep of the family if you will, because most of us have decency not to explain sex to eight year olds. It was the boys Tara brought home that put me on edge. Is it not in the big brother’s best interest to keep their sisters virgins? I’m not sure if there is a rule book but I think I did something right. And something wrong.
I got home early from band practice that day, a small part of my utter demise in the offbeat relationship between me and my sister. Not to say that the sounds warned me of a sexual battlefield but the Jeep parked out front. It wasn’t hard to determine that no parents at home and Delilah sleeping over at a friend’s house, meant play time for Tara. I managed to contain myself as I shut the door behind me and started up the stairs. Despite the creaks of wood, I managed to sneak up without having to jump out of the way of any fleeing boys.
Not to say that I would have rather saw the two undressing than dressing. Skin to skin and the sickening smell of sweat was enough to piss me off entirely. “What the-” was all I heard from the surprised boy as I ripped him from my sister. It was in my right mind to throw him down the stairs but I contained the urge till I had tugged him to the door. “Get you‘re ass out of my house,” I yelled before tossing him and the remains of his clothes onto the lawn.
“I can‘t believe you just did that,” Tara screamed from the top stair. She had managed to dress herself luckily. Last thing I needed was a full on awkward view. “What? I just did you a favor. If I have to throw every dumb ass boyfriend of yours out then I will willingly do so to keep you from getting yourself pregnant.” Anyways I need the exercise, I didn’t add and fixed her with a mocking stare.
“You‘re such a faggot,” She screamed and slammed her door. Not that it bothered me much but it did. I fumed over the irritating petty word.
I passed her room and headed to my own. The mix of grays and tacky band posters was enough to explain my mood. The same buzz of screamo music whispered from the stereo I had forgotten to turn off.
I rolled onto my bed turned up the music and fell asleep.
Hamlin High school was three floors of an old prison turned school. The sign out front still has: Hamlin Penitentiary engraved beneath the slogan: Home of the wasps, how gay is that? Is it strange to call something gay when I’m- no. I’m not. I stop and stare at the puke colored til es on the floor.
“Ian you didn‘t call me yesterday.” The lingering brush of fingertips ran a long my shoulder. Mikaela was five foot eight of tanned legs and waving brown hair. She was as my friends so kindly put it “Sex on legs.” Couldn’t say I didn’t agree. She was fine enough to make a gay man straight. The sad thing was I was simply using her. Hard to call me gay when I act straight and have a girlfriend that guys hate me for. Can’t say we don’t go together like peanut butter and jelly.
I feel his eyes lingering on me. A simple side glance is enough to spot him leaning against the wall with his guitar slung about his shoulder and his fingers teasing the soundless strings. Ash was skinny and tall with a mess of brown hair that slithered through the hem of a black beanie. He had joined my band about a month ago and still didn’t speak but a couple of words to me. He has a teasing way of speaking with riddles and blunt one word answers. I couldn’t help but find him alluring. I hate it, I hate him.
He glances up at me through his hair and I take the chance to turn and snake my arms over Mikaela’s shoulders and kiss her. I wish I could say I feel something, honestly I do. She seems to fall into my lips but I place an emotional barrier to my senses. Nothing.
“Sorry I didn‘t call, I‘ll see you in third.” I leave her at her class and race to escape his eyes. There was one time I could have ignored the feelings and the heat that crept up my neck when I thought too far into it. But those days have passed. I know what I am but I’m not willing to let myself utterly believe it.
Unfortunately the kid has first class with me. I slide into the graffiti covered desk and prominently set my head down. Its in my best interest to simply ignore him but he slides into the desk beside me and sets his guitar down. My skin shivers and I smell his cologne. I had half the mind to tell him to get away from me but I remained silent. Last thing I needed was to lose my guitarist over a stupid crush. Is that what this is, I ask myself, a crush? I shake myself and feel the tap of fingers on my shoulder.
“You got your homework?” He asks me and I want to shy away and hiss like a cat with rabies. I shrug and mumble through my clothing as I pull farther into myself, “Do I ever?” This is absolutely ridiculous, I realize and focus on my government teacher.
I couldn’t be more happy when the bell finally rang and I shot from my seat like a kid on speed. Still he seems to follow me. He runs to catch up, “Ian are you okay?” He asks. He’s said more words to me in the last hour than he has in the last month. I focus away from him on anything other than him. “I am now,” I say and focus on Clay. Last time I’d seen him he was straddling my little sister. The image bore into my mind and I was across the hall in seconds.
My hand struck out across his cheek before he could even see me. I felt the crunch of bone and blood that leaked from his nose like a waterfall. He hit the wall but I held him up before he could fall. “Thought you could get away, you little rat.” Clay finally grabbed onto the situation but my fist caught him across the gut before he could retaliate. Curling over in pain, he started to laugh.
I barely heard what he said, “Saving Tara for yourself? She‘s not bad, done it before I could tell.” I couldn’t hit him again. Ash was pulling me away before I could do what he deserved. I would have lashed out if I didn’t remind myself it was Ash. Clay went at me but Ash got in the way and took the hit.
“Enough, enough. I said that‘s enough.” Principal’s voice, I noted and pulled back as the broad shouldered man shoved between us. “You three, detention after school.”
“He didn‘t even do anything,” I motioned to Ash but the principal wasn’t listening. The school rent-a-cop was coming and I wasn’t about to get my ass tazed for nothing. Clay took off into the bathroom as his nose bleed dribbled along the ugly tiled floor.
The office was about as dull as every other room. The grey and blue speckles walls hurt my eyes but the small dots offered enough for an ADD kid like me. “Sorry I got you in this mess,” My eyes don’t leave the wall as I say to Ash who sits looking equally bored beside me. He shrugs and I risk a glance at him.
Detention is pretty much a free rein lockdown. We can roam, which shows how much our teachers actually care, but can’t leave. The gates are locked out front so its not like we can drive anywhere. It just the teachers attempt to take control of a situation and then get tired doing so.
I wonder around steering clear of Clay and any of his friends also in detention. I wasn’t sure I could control myself to not beat his face in. I find Ash in the freshman hallway plucking at his guitar. Not like I wanted to find him or to even talk to him, but I slide down the wall beside him. He’s playing the rhythm from a Rage Against the Machine song.
He doesn’t say anything and neither do I. I can’t figure out this strange feeling I get from him. Its silent for minutes, I wish I could say it was a nice silence. I wanted to say something but couldn’t.
“Something on your mind?” He asks me.
“No,” I stutter, “why would you think that?” I realize the entire silence I had spent watching him embarrassingly. I clear my throat. “I don‘t know.” Another blunt comment as he sets down his guitar and looks at me.
“What?” I ask and feel the heat creep up my neck. I don’t like the way he’s staring at me. As if trying to figure me out. A smile cracks those blank lips and he laughs. To my utter demise, I find I like his laugh. “Nothing,” He says coyly and lets his hand rest on the strings of the guitar.
“Where are you from,” I ask him to break through the awkwardness.
“Chicago, I moved here when my mom died.” His voice breaks and I bite my lip feeling I’ve brushed a soft spot on the boy. “I’m sorry,” I say and he breaks out laughing.
“Don‘t be she overdosed on Heroine. She couldn‘t care enough about us to quit. Left us with our father, hopeless bastard.” He actually smiles at that. I feel so different from him, even if my dad is a douche.
I don’t press on and doesn’t add. He’s looking at me in that strange way again. I don’t look back for fear I might say something stupid. “Who is that girl you were with the other day?”
“I guess, she‘s pretty. A little fake but pretty.” I’ve began to realize he’s not very good at sugar coating his words. I don’t mind him talking about my girlfriend, after all she’s just a cover but I’m not going to tell him that.
“You should come over my house tonight, we can hang. I need an idea for a guitar solo anyways.” I say before I can believe I’m even saying it. He shrugs and looks up at me, “I might.”
“Such a tease,” I stop myself with an involuntary head shake, can‘t believe I even said anything in the first place. He gives me a funny look. I hear Clay’s voice coming around the corner and my body tenses.
“Just ignore him. Come on lets get out of here,” He pulls me up and we both head to the door. I would have liked to stay and beat Clay’s face in. Ash has a point though and I can’t go beating the snot out of every boyfriend- sister‘s boyfriend I mean.. Outside isn’t exactly in the limits of detention but no one ever cares. You check in to detention and have to check out. What’s the point in leaving if you have to sign out? I’m pretty sure the teachers are just tired of useless detention freaks. I am actually a common resident of after school detention. Ever since I quit the football team, something I still haven’t told my dad.
I press my back up against the wall and he sits beside me too close for my comfort. He pops a lit cigarette in his lips. I’m staring at him again, uncontrollably even when my brain tells me to shy away. A lifted eye brow, he looks at me. “Problem?” The usual single word question. I don’t answer and can’t find the dignity to look away.
A silence surrounded us and I can’t bring myself to speak. No matter how much I wanted to break this trance I was in. Ash cleared his throat and his eyes darted about in confusion, “Ian?”
I leaned forward and despite all my morals, kissed him. At first the shock on his face was obvious. I was about equally confused by the time he kissed back. I feel his hand brush along my shoulder and sweep my hair. No this is wrong. I keep hearing my dad’s voice in my head: “No way I‘m having a faggot as a son.” All the kids that made fun of Ash for being gay. I can’t do that. I hear my dad’s disappointment. My eyes rip open and I shove him off me. I fall backwards with the cement digging into my shoulders. I roll and stumble to the door ripping it open. The bathroom couldn’t be farther away when I bust into the men’s and to the first stall.
I just got turned on by a guy, I realize as I dig my fingers into my clothes and hair.
I lash out at the plaster blockades between stalls and my knuckles scar and bleed. I rip at my hair and curl up on myself. I realized how close I went to losing myself and who I was desperate to be. I’m not gay, my mind screams so fiercely that I almost yell out. I walk to the mirror and look at my rumpled hair and the way my skin seems to quiver in disgust.
Enough. I know who I am. I’m not a disappointment, that’s for sure. I hear my dad’s voice in my head. I don’t talk to Ash, look at him, or even care if he’s looking at me. Detention folds to a close with no more problems. Then again, hanging in the Freshman bathroom for an hour is pretty uneventful.
I wait for the car to pull up and its my dad. Not that it bothers me but kissing a boy and then talking to my homophobic father is slightly awkward. He always has this half smile on his face as if he’s only half happy with me. Half disappointed, as if he knows. I look over for a glimpse and see Ash looking at me. I probably should have said something but it was always easier to ignore the stupid things you did. Mine was probably top ten on the stupid things to do list. I could only imagine someone catching us. What if Clay had seen that little act? I’d be the joke of the school for months not to mention no one would treat me seriously. Especially my father.
I would like to say that I never see him again. That he moved away to Chicago and messed up someone else’s life. But he never seemed to leave me alone. Whether it be in my thoughts or simply wherever I went. Not saying that he was following me but he just was always there. In the hallway teasing me with thoughts as he strummed at that Gibson guitar of his or in first block only a few inches away. No matter how much I ignored him. He was always there to taunt me with reminders that I wasn’t who I or my father wanted me to be. I couldn’t hide this deep feeling that kept drawing me to him. And the reminder of the damned kiss. I keep hearing my father’s disappointment in my mind and I‘ve been getting progressively worse on my spying skills whenever I stare at him. Hell even Mikaela noticed and she never notices anything past her vanity. “Who is that guy?” She asked me, “He piss you off or something?” “Nah just some fag.” I look hastily away and kiss her goodbye. It wince at my words and hate saying them but it seemed to work. After all straight guys are afraid of homosexuals, right? Ash didn’t speak to me in first but I felt his eyes on me. I laid my head on my crossed arms and ignored the world. I headed out to second and then third where I met up with Mikaela and she talked a straight hour about some b**** who had supposedly backstabbed her. I’ve become pretty good at acting interested. But this time she notices my fleeting mind and I tell her I feel sick. Last block, French, ambles past slowly and then I’m free for the rest of the day. I end up missing my ride with Ron, band drummer, due to another thrilling conversation with the school principal of my recent class absenses, and am forced to walk my ass home about 4. I really wish I hadn’t missed my ride. The south has never been a big fan of gays. Now I bet in Chicago, Ash had been welcomed slightly better but he’s in Atlanta now. Not quite as welcoming especially in school where kids can be just plain cruel. I found him leaning against a stone wall with a walnut sized bruise on his cheek and a bleeding lip. I heard the group leave but didn’t see who they were. I almost just leave him there but bless my concerned soul, I stop. “Hey,” is all he says and wipes the blood from his lip. He straightens out his disheveled shirt and his eyes fall on the remainders of his broken guitar. Pity and sorrow settles harshly on me. “I‘m sorry dude.” “God, last thing I want is someone pitying me.” He says with words laced in aggression. I remember how he replied so bluntly about his mother’s death. “I got an extra one at my house.” I say absentmindedly. “It was actually a gift.” He sighs and tosses the remainder into the case. I stop myself from apologizing again. “Well take this as a gift from me.” “What‘s your deal?” He asks me suddenly but doesn’t give me a chance to question him. “One minute you‘re kissing me, then your running away, and now what? Feeling pity for the poor gay guy? Is this some kind of joke.” I stutter in my surprise, can’t seem to form a single word. He’s shaking his head. “Why‘d you kiss me?” “I-I don‘t know, I was drunk. I had a couple flasks of vodka, that‘s why I got in the fight.” I try to form up an explanation in those seconds. Its pitiful. “I know you‘re type; you hide behind a false face. You‘re a coward. That afraid of being gay, huh?” “I‘m not gay,” I shout defensively. Its too forced and I know he doesn’t take it. He already knew and nothing will change his mind. I consider walking away. “What reason do you have? An oppressive parent? Hoping to score it with your girlfriend so that you don‘t feel like so much of a freak. What‘s she going to think when you finally break it to her?” I clench my fists. I can’t look at him for fear of betraying everything but my overbearing emotions is making good work of that. I lash out and grab him up by his collar. He’s lighter and weaker then me, I know that I could easily knock his face in. I hold him up to meet my eyes, “I‘m. Not. Gay.” Every word is grinded through my teeth. “Denial is a heartless b****, I know.” He says and I begin to realize he was talking about himself, not me. I had given him my answer by over reacting. I want to punch his face in but I can’t bring myself to. His face softens but I still can‘t dim the fury. I‘m not really mad at him. More so myself. “I told my father and he punched me. The stupid bastard broke my nose.” He says and I begin to feel even more like an ass. I look away and let him go. “I can‘t tell him, I can‘t.” I say and realize this is the first person I’m confessing to. Though I’m pretty sure Delilah, the good younger twin, has suspected something. She was always the smart one. I begin to realize my other sister, Tara is home alone again. I begin to worry about that and Ash seems to realize it. “Look, I need a guitar and you need to get home.” He starts walking and I follow. He stops, “Did you like it?” I stop abruptly almost running into him. “Um what?” “The kiss.” He says and I glower. The last thing I want to admit is that it did. He smiles and I look away not doing so well at hiding my discomfort. “Don‘t worry, secret is safe with me.” I don't like the sound of that. It takes forever to get to my street. With my run in with Ash and a couple of annoying beggers of main street. I see the cars first, none of which are my parents. I hear the beatign and the music and know its Tara doing something stupid. A couple of underclassmen wobble out drunk. "Great," I grumble.
My fingers draw over the smooth cylinder of my lighter. I pop a cigarette into my lips and light it. The deep taste of nicotine feels my gums. My hand shakes slightly. I needed that. “Dude you’re going to give yourself cancer.” Ash says behind me, I can tell he’s looking at the house and the number of cars lined up outside my house. “Won‘t matter because Tara is going to kill me long before the tar covers my lungs. It helps my stress, I‘ve got anger problems.” “Wouldn‘t have imagined.” He says and I note the curl of his lips. I toss the butt down and scrape it beneath my shoes. I had almost forgotten that my mother and father left on a weekend business meeting. I could already smell the sweat and unguarded sex. Its sad that I should be the one partying but I’m too busy acting like a dad to my whore of a sister. “I swear if they‘re in my room,” I start and sigh as I open the door to the smell of booze and weed. Throw up and sweat. A couple is having making out on my couch. Now I guess no one really noticed that Tara was my sister, we pretty much ignore each other as school as if the other doesn’t exist. People start looking at me and I’m a pretty menacing guy if I do say so myself. Tall, broad shoulders, I look like I just got out of jail (Ron tells me), mohawk, yeah I could mess you up if I was a relatively nice guy. “Tara, there‘s some freak in your house. I think he‘s gonna mug us.” I hear some girl say. Tara doesn’t even bother looking, she already knows its me. I’m not sure whether that should flatter or insult me. “Tara, what are these people doing here?” I ask her and barely keep the grating out of my voice. “Ian calm down it’s a party, chill.” She’s buzzed, I can tell. I roll my eyes and head up the stairs, I think Ash follows me. He looks uncomfortable. I see Clay out of the corner of my eyes. His nose is bandaged and I wish I hit him harder. He’s stoned. I knew there was a reason I hated underclassmen. Delilah is a pretty girl but hides it behind pointed glasses and dyed black hair. Can’t say she’s any more normal than me. She’s going through the Goth phase as we all do at one point in our life. I’m in the I look like a psycho phase, I think I just made that up. It was hard to imagine that the two were twins. Only in the eyes did they look familiar. Though I remember when we were kids, they’d like to freak me out by dressing alike and now they couldn’t be more different. I nod to her and she looks mildly irritated by Tara’s party. She’s never been the most social one but she has a cute- a boyfriend. Ugh I really have to sort out my brain. I think it’s the stress that has me thinking this way. Then again, why am I bringing a gay guy up to my room? My mind reminds me this is solely business. Guitar, he needs a guitar. My room isn’t bad, queen size and flat screen. I’m not the hopelessly poor type. Though I have a feeling Ash is surprised that I don’t live in a trailer. It’s a simple two year old Fender. “Nothing much, cost a lost though. I don‘t play much anymore which is exactly why we needed you so bad.” “I don‘t think the guys like me very much,” Ash says. He’s half right, Parker(bassist) is afraid of gays mainly because he thinks he’s the hottest thing in Georgia and that every gay wants to stalk him (he‘s not as attractive as he thinks he is). Ron just loves everyone(he‘s a ginger, yeah I know). So were all a bunch of misfits, I’m the freak and Ash is the gay guy. We’re that awesome. “Don‘t listen to Parker, he‘s a dumb shit. Ron thinks you‘re badass with a guitar.” I reply and grab the controller to the ps3 and continue my daily session of killing Koreans in ‘Home Front.’ Mikaela keeps calling me. Its getting annoying. A message reads: I miss you. “Why? I just freaking saw you,” I mumble to myself and drop the phone on the ground. I feel Ash at my side, “Your still playing this game huh?” “Home front?” “No, you know what I‘m talking about.” I do. I groan and pause the game. “Its not a game, I don‘t want this. I‘m perfectly fine playing straight.” It dawns on my that I’ve opened up to him but I still haven’t admitted it to myself. My dads not the only one that needs to hear it. “I‘m not gay.” I say sternly and focus on the phone wondering if I should call Mikaela. “She doesn‘t make you happy. Do you want to live a miserable life ignoring who you are? That doesn‘t sound like a good life to me.” He’s too near to me and I pull away. “Do you just like to make me feel uncomfortable?” I grumble and pull into myself. He looks down at me with a smile, I hate that smile I find. “Actually you‘re cute when your uncomfortable.” He says to me and manage a glare through the heat rising in my face. I look anywhere but his but he’s still there. “What do you want? I gave you the guitar.” “I‘m just curious that‘s all.” I jump as his breath creeps along my neck. His nose inches from my own. I look down my nose at him and realized my breathing was hitched in the heat. I tried to think of something to say, maybe to tell him to get the hell away from me. I only stutter. I pull away as he get closer and I feel his body heat against my own. I lay like a frightened rabbit. His hand sweeps my cheek and It takes all I have to keep the urge from pulling me into him. This is wrong, my mind screams, just plain wrong. I wish I could think of a reason to get out of this situation. I can’t think straight. I keep thinking of reasons I want him to kiss me, not the other way around. Before I can say or decide anything, he closes the gap with his body against my own and our lips together. I press away, murmuring into this kiss but I can’t deny the heat that spreads. This feels right. Those three words, I hate them. I want to tear away and bat out like I usually do. I feel his body against my own, one leg straddling the side of the bed while the other is draped over my waist. Too close, despite the clothes the heat is infuriating. I kiss back and press against him. Its no longer to push him away but to get closer. Everything is wrong though, the absence of the barricade of breasts and long hair that my fingers feel for at the cradle of his lower back. His fingers, not the soft curved tips I’m used to, brush along my stomach. I keep hearing his voice in my head and despite the urge I keep my eyes open and posted on the door. It doesn’t lock but the damn thing is hard enough to open. I should feel comfort by its stubbornness but it only reminds me I could be caught like this. Kissing a boy. Kissing Ash. With my breathing hitched I realize I have to stop this. I will lose sight of who I am and mix it into what I want. There’s no doubt in my mind I want Ash but not this. I can’t be gay. I’m not strong enough to take something like that. Who would chose to take years of mockery and abuse? That won’t be my choice. I look back to the door and hear the familiar creak. My awareness spikes and I’m shove out at Ash. I’m stronger and bigger than him. His back hits harshly against the carpet. Delilah is standing there with a look I can’t place. I don’t take the time. It most situations its either flee or fight. I usually pick to fight my way out. I’ve never felt such a need to run for it. My eyes fall to the window that leads to the roof of the garage. But this is my house, I have no where to run to. Delilah doesn’t speak, her eyes are wide open and mouth gaping. “I-I‘m sorry, I should have knocked.” She says and closes the door as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I realize how damn lucky I was it was her and not Tara. Or worse, Clay. Or even worse, my dad. Ash had hit his head in the fall and is rubbing it. He looks at me speechlessly. “Get out of my house,” I say to him. Its all I can think about. Its his fault. He stares in disbelief. “No, shut up and get out. I told you, I‘m not into guys.” I try to sound commanding but it just comes out weary and exhausted. “Doesn‘t look like it,” He says and I quickly pull my pillow over to cover my lap. “Leave me alone, will you just do me that? God just because you‘re lonely doesn‘t mean you have to make me look any more of a freak. Now get out.” It hurts to say it but it sounds right. I just can’t deal with it anymore. “You know what, forget you. I pity you. You‘re so much of a coward you don‘t even know who you are.” He says to me but I don’t reply. He’s right and I don’t have the willpower to act like an ignorant idiot. I see Clay in the hallway as Ash leaves. I don’t even bother glare. The sounds of the party mingle in with my guilty thoughts. Half of me can’t believe I started making out with Ash and the other half can’t believe I just made him leave. “I‘m such a screw up.” I muffle my words through my hands. There a crash, several banging noises that make me regret everything. I launch myself to the door and wrench it open to see Ash’s head smack against the wall down the stairs.