And another day. Getting up was really hard lately. I wish I could just stay in bed. But that doesn’t help at all. So I just kept forcing me to roll myself out of the bed and put on some clothes.

As usual I didn’t have much for breakfast, I just chewed on one or two slices of bred with some jam on them for a few minutes. I sat at the same table as my mom and my little brother and my ears heard what they said, but I didn’t really listen. Well, I’ve never really been a morning person, so it’s not like it’s gonna surprise them.

After breakfast I brushed my teeth, because that’s what we do in a responsible household. Wouldn’t want to get bad teeth, would we? Sigh.

For a moment I contemplated, if I should comb my medium length hair in a tone of dark blonde.

I decided to take a quick stroke on my har, but to leave it at that – I wouldn’t get the feeling of looking good anyway.

After checking my watch I allowed myself to relax on the bed for a few minutes. Then I collected the most important books from the two shelves on the left of my desk and packed my schoolbag.

A moment later I put on my shoes and hurried towards the bus stop. As always the bus came one or two minutes late. Inside I was instantly greeted by the group of my closest friends. I worked up a smile, although I still wasn’t really in the mood for it, greeted back and took an empty seat near them. „Them“ meant in this case mainly Ben and Tobi, but for the bus ride Julian liked to join our group, too. We would meet Alex later at the school. But that were enough people to focus on listening rather than saying a lot and I appreciated that. This morning it was all about the rumor that some girl in our year had kissed Philipp. That actually was kind of funny, because Philipp was a nerd. And I mean really a nerd. He could go on and on about Star Wars, he loved to dwell in fantasy worlds and he seemed to spent every free minute at home at the computer, mostly playing video games. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s not like I really cared about it at all, they can do what they want, but I would have bet that it really was just a rumor and nothing more. Then we got to hear how many goals Tobi had shot at the soccer training yesterday. Apparently even the trainer complimented him.

Shortly after that the bus reached the school. Alex was already waiting, but we only had a few minutes before the classes would begin, so everybody started going to their rooms. I had my first class that morning with Tobi together. I didn’t know if I were happy with that. Tobi is a nice guy – he always is so full of energy, but that can be quite annoying sometimes. Fortunately he spotted some mate from his soccer team and immediately got involved in a conversation with him. When a few minutes later the teacher appeared, a typical boring lesson started. It was hard to stay concentrated, nonetheless I understood the basic ideas of the presented concepts at least. Since it was English it was something about Shakespeare and what effect the words on the board over there should cause and bla,bla bla…

I guess, I could even see some sense in that stuff, but it definitely wasn’t able to lift my mood. So my mood still wasn’t the best when I went to our traditional place for the break – the bench behind the trees. There always was a crowd of people from our year and my group of friends among them. Since I hadn’t gone with a fast pace, all the others were already there. I set up a smile – there was no need to take them down with my bad mood – and joined them. The group consisted of my three friends, two other boys and a girl this time. I thought she was the girlfriend of one of the boys, but I wasn’t sure. At the moment Alex was going on about his math teacher and how much homework they had until friday. We agreed and Ben joked that maybe he just shouldn’t do it. Then Tobi had to make another comment on how good he was in soccer lately. Ben was just laughing about it at that point. „Ok, mate. Yeah, we got it. You are the next Messi. Or rather the next Neymar?“, he said accompanied by his own bright laughter. In the next few minutes Tobi explained the chuckling rest of the group, why he clearly was the next Messi and not the next Neymar. Then we spoke a little bit more about the topics of our school subject and some told their plans in this week. Now and then I chimed in to support a statement or make a comment, but I didn’t talk much about myself. Even if they wanted to hear all about me, I doubted I would have much interesting stuff to tell. I didn’t do too many exciting things in the afternoon nowadays. And yeah, I guess there were some things bothering me a bit at the moment, but I didn’t want to talk about them. Much rather I would have just liked to forget them, but I couldn’t get rid of them and the brooding about them. But it wasn’t even really noticable. There was always someone wanting to say something. I didn’t think anyone ever expected to say something more. Everybody just talked, some people a little bit more, some less. Paying close attention to one person in particular was rare. Lately I spent the breaks keeping to myself that way, while still having a little bit of superficial conversation to reduce boredom.At one point Tobi declared “It’s gonna get warm today. I’m going go get some ice cream in the afternoon. Who is coming with me? Come on guys, you know you want some ice cream.“ Finally Ben, Alex and I agreed to meet up with him around 4 o’clock, right after school would have finished. Then I had more hours of school and more breaks – always playing out really similar. There was something really monotonous about it. And the next days would be exactly the same. Up until the weekend. Just to repeat again on Monday. But at least someday I would finish school. However, later that day I had P.E. and that always was a little bit special. This was not really because of the stuff we did there – I mean it was still better than the average school experience and some games could be really fun – but because of the changing. Nobody in our class showered, because the showers were pretty dirty and probably noone wanted to be the first one to do that, too. So everybody just stripped down to his underwear before putting on the sportswear, but that was enough to create some big distractions and dangers for me. Some of those bodies were just amazing. Everyone watched the others at some point and you had to look somewhere while changing, but I always feared someone would notice my peeks. And what if I gave myself away on one of those silly comments that always would be a part of the changing rooms. But so far I had always got away. And this time also. Of course I noticed a few great bodies, especially Bens. He was also in my P.E.-class and just looked really gorgeous. The combination of his almond colored eyes and the dark brown shade of his hair was already intruiging, then being able to see more of his clear defined, but not overly muscular body could really jeopardize my self control. Every single time. Nevertheless I probably was not too obvious. There were no bad or dangerous comments. So I just continued my usual day of school. It stayed boring otherwise – a constant steady repitition of the same routine, trying not to miss too much of the stuff we are supposed to learn and not to annoy the teachers.

When the last class I ended I found myself smiling sincere for the first time that day at the thought of getting some ice cream with my friends.

We were quick to meet up and started walking. It would take us at least ten minutes to get there, but it was a nice walk with good company. We didn’t hurry too much and exchanged some more stories, mostly from school.

We reached the cafe and decided after a short discussion that we would sit down and eat there. We got our ice cream – I took maracuya and strawberry, I’ve always been a sucker for the fruity flavors – and sat down around a round table in front of the cafe. While we talked and ate, I let my gaze wander. It wasn’t completely crowded, but the cafe had a large outdoor area and there were quite a few other persons. At the table next to us a boy and a girl sat. And the boy was cute, like really cute. The kind that made me forget anything else for a second. I wondered what the relationship of the two was. I wondered how it would feel to touch the skin of that boy. How you even get your skin that smooth looking. That brown hair was intruiging. I only realized that I had spaced out for a bit, when I got a powerful nudge into my side. Alex was quick to tease me. “What are you thinking about my friend? Do you know that boy? Or was our conversation just too boring to follow?“ I was caught completely off guard. “What? No? Why? Are you crazy? Why would I stare at him? I just thought that girl was cute. Sorry, if I don’t always hear every single word you say. Geez.“ I probably snapped a little bit there. I definitely spoke louder than I needed to and they seemed surprised by that. I just had been caught so off guard and was confused. And I felt this fear. This deep fear inside. The fear of being made, of not being able to hide, to be exposed. The fear that they would judge me. For a second I thought that my answer would now raise there suspicion. But it seemed like they were nothing more, but a little surprised. Espcially Ben seemed taken aback. “What is wrong with you today, mate? No need to take it out on us.“ At a closer look Ben actually seemed a little uneasy. As I looked, I realized that he looked at me, too, studying me. I took a quick glance to his eyes and there was a brief eye contact, but there was no way I could hold that. I couldn’t look him right into the eyes, especially not him. So I watched Alex and Tobi instead, nonetheless I still sensed Bens eyes on me. I felt like there was more to it, but I couldn’t really place it. So I just decided to mumble a quick sorry and return to other topics.

A few minutes later everyone had finished. Usually we may have stayed a bit longer, but Alex had to go buy something for school and Ben also had some other appointment. Hence we split and made our way home. I took the bus, but although I was on the same bus with Ben and Tobi every morning, nobody would take the same bus as me from there. Therefore I just stared out of the window and dwelled on my thoughts. When I got home, I jumped onto my bed and brooded a bit more. Lately I definitely had gotten more tense. I kind of knew why. It was difficult. I wished I could talk with someone about it. But with who? Nono, that would not be a good idea. Because then I actually would have to talk with someone about it. I get that that sounds a little crazy, but those were my thought patterns. I mean, I couldn’t even speak with myself honest and open about everything. But after all it was much better to just bury some things deep down, wasn’t it? Sure, I know had a few problems, but I could live with them, couldn’t I? No need to risk it all and probably make it much worse. Well, I had already made that decision. Why couldn’t I just check it off and move onto other things?

Eventually I spent the rest of the afternoon in my bed. I did my homework before I went to bed, but I decided that I didn’t want to spend more afternoons like this. I had made my decision already before that afternoon. I couldn’t show my whole personality, that was just not really possible for me, so I would just wall it off from the rest. I’d always be able to handle things differently if I wanted, but for now that would be for the best.

I would just ask my friends if somebody had time and see what I’m able to do. Already I got a little bit energy out of that decision.

The next day of school was boring as usual, that is just the way school usually is, but I definitely felt not as down as the day before. At the first break Alex and Tobi came later. So I just asked Ben when I walked up to him. “Do you wanna do something later?“ “Like what?“ “I don’t know. I just don’t wanna go home too early. It’s always more fun to do something in our little group.“ “Ok, sure.

Let’s just go to the court and play basketball. I know you haven’t done that a lot so far, but I’m sure you will do fine.“ “Well, I’ll try my best.“

After their arrival we also asked Alex and Tobi. Tobi would go to his soccer practice again on that day, but Alex was down for joining us later.

When school finished, everyone went home first and we met at the basketball court that was open to everyone. It was just us and we played some small games. Both Ben and Alex were a bit better than me for the moment, but I hadn’t played for a while. And it was a lot of fun. “We definitely have to do that again soon.“ I said in the end.

In the following days and then weeks I saw to it that I always had something planned for the afternoon. I was quite lucky, that Alex and Ben had time almost every afternoon. And Tobi did join in often, too, when he didn’t have soccer training or some other stuff going on. I knew a lot of guys in school that had much less actual free time. Play an instrument, join an orchester and a team for some kind of sport and you don’t have much left next to the homework that you still need to do. Therefore I was really glad with the development. Playing basketball, doing some other stuff, but also just chilling outside with my friends was so much better than staying home. Now I realized how much I just stayed home and did nothing in the past weeks. Even when I was home, I did a lot more now. It’s amazing how you can use smartphone and internet nowadays to communicate with others. Through it all I also grew much closer with Ben and Alex. That meant a lot to me. I didn’t realize it before in that way, but it meant a lot to just have some guys you can trust. That doesn’t mean that I completely opened up. But with them around I found myself talking much more frequent now and actually sharing some of my thoughts. I still walled myself of and put on a mask on some things, but it got better. Especially after another important incident.

We played basketball that day again and mixed up with another group for a game. At one point I fouled another boy. I really had gone in a bit harsh there and I was quick to apologize, but he needed to go on and vent a bit. When he called me a “Fucking faggot!“ I froze up and was suddenly unable to think straight. I felt that fear again. It had been triggered. Fortunately Ben was fast to stand up to him and shouted “What’s your problem? If you’re looking for trouble look somewhere else. He said he was sorry. So piss off with your stupid insults.“. It was funny, how worked up Ben suddenly was, but I was glad. Waiting for an answer he took a step towards that guy and Alex positioned himself behind Ben to support him. That way everything was solved immediately. That prick actually walked away and played somewhere else and the rest could continue. That day, that incidente made me realize, how crazy that fear was. And while you can never control something like that completely, I learned that I ccould ignore it. That I could wall of that fear to a certain degree to and not let it get to me too much. Because while there is some reason or truth in it, that fear was not helping.

From that time on I had much stronger friendships. I felt like I could now wear my mask in a good way. While I still masked off a lot of myself from the world, I started to be able to differentiate a bit better between people to put down some of those masks for my friends. I found more self- confidance and started to change step by step – and for the better.

I had a lot more fun in many places, even in school and actually felt happier.

It would not have been possible without my friends. However in the end I needed to make that decision, to make some kind of change and I’m glad I could do that.

Who knows, maybe I would one day find the person that would make me put down all of my masks. Or maybe that person was already there and I just didn’t know.

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