Dancing on a Star
When I went downstairs, Dad was helping Mr. Craft with the deck. Tracy was standing off to the side with a container full of nails. When Mr. Craft held out his hand, Tracy would hand him one. I walked over and stood beside him, but he ignored me.
I helped as much as I could. It seemed like I was more in the way than anything else. I helped lay large boards in place while my father and Mr. Craft hammered nails in them. Not once did Tracy attempt to say anything to me.
It took over three hours to finally finish the deck floor. There were still steps that had to be added, but Mr. Craft said that could wait for another day. “How about a beer, Jerry?” he asked my father. My father isn’t a big drinker, but he does like to drink socially. I was becoming worried that if he and Mr. Craft became good friends, he could turn into an alcoholic. When they went inside, Tracy followed. I wasn’t sure what I should do. After our exchange earlier in Tracy’s bedroom, I thought it would probably be better if I went home.
When I entered, my mother asked, “Where’s your father?”
“He’s drinking beer with Mr. Craft,” I informed her.
She pointed to a chair and asked me to have a seat. She took two bottled waters from the refrigerator, handed me one and sat down at the table across from me. I became uncomfortable when she said nothing but just stared at me.
“What?” I finally asked.
“I know I’m being foolish,” she replied, “but do you think there is something strange about the Crafts?”
I gave her a puzzled look and asked, “Strange? What do you mean?”
She lowered her voice and looked around. I don’t know why because no one was in the kitchen with us. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Don’t you find it rather strange that they don’t see anything wrong with Tracy taking ballet lessons?”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I guess it is kind of weird.”
She looked around and lowered her voice and asked, “Do you think he’s gay?”
My face must have turned fifty shades of red. I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. Earlier, Tracy admitted to me that he was gay. And not just gay, but openly gay. Since his parents obviously knew, then it would probably be only a matter of time before his mother would say something to my mother. I wasn’t sure if I should be the one to tell her,
And if I did, she might just ask me how I know. Since she was being so secretive, I didn’t know how she would react if I told her Tracy told me he was gay. She might question why he told me.
“Well?” she asked again, “Do you think he is gay?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know, Mom,” I replied. “He could be. But just because he likes to dance, does that mean he’s gay?” I really had no idea about dancers since I had never even remotely been interested in the subject. My mother enrolled my sister in a ballet class a few years ago, but after a few weeks she lost interest. That was extent of my knowledge of dance. I asked, “Aren’t there straight ballet dancers?”
She gave me a puzzled look. “I guess there may be,” she replied, “but I still don’t think it’s something a normal boy would do.”
I took offense to the way she said normal. I had never considered my mother might be homophobic. It had never been mentioned except in a passing comment about a gay character on television. Even then, it was never mean or malicious.
I was becoming increasingly upset with the conversation. I couldn’t understand why my parents seemed bothered by the fact that Tracy might be gay. My father had so much as said it at the dinner table when he suggested that Mr. Craft should have insisted that Tracy play a ‘man’s’ sport instead of taking ballet lessons. I could tell he offended Mr. Craft by his statements, but I suppose it was something that he had heard often.
I know if my parents had given me ballet lessons, all my relatives would have had something to say. Both my grandfathers were like dad, they enjoyed watching sports. Whenever we visited, there was always a baseball or football game playing in the den or family room. My grandmothers also enjoyed sports as much as my grandfathers. Thinking back, I don’t think I had ever seen them watch anything other than sports or regular television shows. They probably would have laughed if I suggested watching a show on PBS or Animal Planet.
I also didn’t know how they felt about gay people. I guess, like most families, it is never discussed. I once was alone in the family room. Everyone else had gone to the mall to buy my sister a new pair of shoes for school. As I was surfing around looking for something to watch, I ran across a show called Ru Paul’s Drag Race. By the name, I thought it was a NASCAR show. Boy, was I surprised! It was men dressed up like women, and there was this really flamboyant guy who was named Ru Paul. It was interesting hearing men being referred to as a girl. I had never heard that before. As I watched, I really became engrossed in the show. I found myself rooting for a competitor named Ginger. He, I mean, she, was very pretty. What I found fascinating was how handsome he was when he looked like a man.
As I watched it, I wondered if that is what I would become when I come out as gay? Will it make me more like a girl? I’ve watched Jeff mature over the years. As he grows older, he looks prettier. Not in a guy sort of way. Since he wears his hair long, he looks girlish. I think he’s really cute, but I could never tell him or anyone that. And Tracy. He is even prettier with his sparkling green eyes. If I knew I wasn’t gay, then it would probably worry me if I found them attractive. Now after watching Ginger on TV, I wonder if that is what Jeff and Tracy want to look like.
I guess what I’m wondering is can a gay boy look like a normal boy? Oh, God! Now I sound like my mother. Maybe she thinks that. If I ever do come out, will she be worried that I’ll start wearing a dress or something? I can tell by the way she talks about Tracy that she thinks he probably dances with a tutu on. I know he doesn’t because I’ve seen him dance. Although, the times I’ve seen him dance, he’s worn sweat pants. I’m sure he doesn’t wear a tutu onstage when he dances. Does he?
I heard my father come in downstairs. It was getting dark outside, so I suppose they had finished for the night. I walked over to my bedroom window and looked across the street at Tracy’s room. It was like I was becoming obsessed with him. His room was dark, so I went downstairs to watch television for a while.
Dad was asleep in his lounger, and Karen was lying on the sofa with her head in my mother’s lap. She put her finger to her lips and looked over at my father. I don’t know why I had to be silent. When he goes to sleep, they could excavate the house next door, and he wouldn’t wake up.
I sat on the floor with my back to the sofa in front of my mother. They were watching some movie that didn’t look very interesting. That’s the only thing wrong when Karen watches tv. My mother thinks everything must be G-rated. Karen is eight, and I’ve heard her playing in her room sometimes when her friends come over. Mom would wash her mouth out with soap if she heard her say some of the things I’ve heard her say.
Fifteen minutes later, someone knocked on the door. I got up to see who it was, although I was pretty sure by the knock. Only one person knocks two times quickly, and then a single knock. Sure enough, it was Jimmy.
“What are you doing, Jack?” he asked.
“Not much,” I replied. “Watching some boring movie.”
He motioned for me to come out and sit on the porch. “Wait a minute,” I responded. “I gotta get a jacket.” When I returned he was sitting on a step. I walked over and sat down.
I asked, “Isn’t it a little late for this?” It was almost ten.
“I’m bored,” he replied. “All the guys are busy.”
“Thanks,” I responded sarcastically. “So, I’m your last choice.”
He laughed and replied, “I didn’t it mean it that way. It’s just it’s Saturday night, and we don’t have anything to do.”
“I was watching a movie,” I reminded him.
He quipped, “You said it was boring.”
We sat and talked for about twenty minutes, but our conversation was awkward. The more we talked, the more I began to realize that Jimmy and I really didn’t share any of the same interests anymore. He started out by talking about the upcoming basketball season. He complained for several minutes about how bad the team was. Then, he started talking about a couple of girls he had met earlier at the mall. He went on and on about how pretty they were, and how he was trying to get up the nerve to call a girl named Cindy. He even admitted that is why he came over, so he could get up the courage to call her.
“What do you think, Jack?” He looked at me expectantly. “What would you do?”
I just stared at him. What could I say. It’s not like I have a lot of experience talking to girls on the phone. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to a girl on the phone. I mean, I’ve talked to my older sister and some of my cousins on the phone, but that really doesn’t count.
“Um,” I replied. “I don’t know. I guess I would call her.”
“You don’t think she would think I was kind of desperate calling her right away?”
I laughed and said, “Well, you are desperate.”
“I don’t know, Jack,” he replied worriedly. “She’s awful pretty. What if she doesn’t want to talk?”
“Jesus, Jimmy!” I moaned. “Just fucking call her.”
“Yeah!” he said excitedly. “I will.” He hesitated before adding, “Tomorrow.”
We sat a few more minutes talking about school, when I looked up at Tracy’s window when the light came on. ‘Oh, shit,” I thought to myself. ‘Please don’t start dancing.’ I looked over at Jimmy, and he was watching the window.
“That poof done anymore dancing?” he asked. I let out a sigh to let Jimmy know I was upset. It was obvious that he was just using the word because he knew it upset me. If I didn’t respond, then maybe he would quit saying it.
“God,” hissed Jimmy. “He’s doing it again.” We watched as Tracy danced in his room. After his little performance for me earlier, I had some idea what he was doing. Jimmy, though, continued to get angrier as he watched.
He stood, looked up at the window and said angrily, “I can’t take any more of this shit! Jesus, Jack! You need to tell him people can see what he’s doing from the street. He’s going to upset the whole neighborhood.” He then hurried down the sidewalk toward his home.
I continued to sit and watch. I know it sounds weird, but I was captivated by his movements. They seemed effortless. I wondered what he would look like on a stage dancing before an audience.
Suddenly, Jimmy came walking down the street with Tyler and Brian following behind him. He stopped a few feet away and pointed up at the window. “See guys,” he said. “That’s the shit I’m talking about.”
Tyler and Brian stood on the sidewalk and stared up at Tracy’s window as his silhouette danced against the blinds. “What’s the fuck’s he doing?” asked Tyler.
Brian responded, “Looks like a friggin’ ballerina to me.”
“I told you guys he was gay,” responded Jimmy. “He’s a poof. A sissy one at that.” He turned and muttered, “I’ve seen enough.”
“Me, too,” replied Tyler as he turned and followed Jimmy down the sidewalk. Brian walked over and sat down beside me.
He asked, “Why are you sitting out here watching him, Jack?”
I froze. I had no answer. I couldn’t tell him I enjoyed watching Tracy as he danced around his room. “Um,” I replied. “Jimmy came over, and we was sitting here. I didn’t feel like going back in and watching a boring movie.”
“This is more interesting?” he asked skeptically.
“No,” I responded quickly. “I haven’t been watching him. Honest.”
Brian stood and looked down at me. “You better be careful, Jack.” He said as he looked up at the window. “Jimmy says he’s gay.”
I replied, “Yeah,” as he turned and walked away.
* * * * * *
Something happened at school on Monday that I’m not very proud of. In fact, I really hate myself. Everything was going fine until after third period. I was heading to my fourth period class when I noticed a commotion in the hall. Usually, it means that two students are getting ready to fight.
As I tried to make my way past the students who were waiting for something to happen, I heard Tyler’s voice. He had asked someone, “Well, are you a fag?” I stopped and tried to stand on my tiptoes to see who he was talking to. It was Tracy. He had him pinned to a locker. It wasn’t forceful or anything. He just had his arm out against the locker and wouldn’t let Tracy get past him.
Tracy sneered, “I don’t think it’s any of your fucking business.” There was a gasp from several students standing nearby.
Tyler’s face reddened. Knowing Tyler, he really wasn’t looking for a fight. I think he was just trying to embarrass Tracy. However, it looked like Tracy wasn’t in the mood for his antics. Tyler nervously looked around trying to figure out what to do next. He then noticed me in the crowd.
“Jack!” he hollered out. “Tell everyone what we saw last night.” I turned and walked away.
So, that’s why I’m mad at myself. I should have stayed and defended Tracy. Like Tracy, I should have insisted that it was really none of Tyler’s business what he was doing. But I got scared. If I sided with Tyler, then I would have felt miserable. Yet there was no way I could defend Tracy without making Tyler suspicious of why I was defending someone who he thought was gay.
I did the cowardly thing and walked away, and I’m not very happy with myself. I skipped lunch today. If I had eaten with Tyler, he would have asked me about it. I’m not really sure what happened when I left. I don’t think they fought. If they did, everyone would be talking about it. Besides, Tyler plays basketball, and I’m not sure he would risk getting suspended and kicked off the team over something so trivial. He thought we would be cute and embarrass Tracy in front of others, and it backfired. Mr. Craft had said that the students had given him a hard time at his former school, so he probably knew how to respond to intimidation.
Also, he may be a dancer, but he is built like an athlete. He’s not some sissy who can be picked on like Jeff. Jeff used to get a lot of abuse in the middle school. But since we started high school, the rules changed. Mrs. Alexander warned us during an assembly our first day as freshmen that the school has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. She stated that sixteen students had been suspended ten days since she became principal. She looked out over three hundred scared freshmen and dared us to be the seventeenth. Four days later, Darryl Osborne became that student when he called another student a faggot and slammed him against a locker. It took Mrs. Alexander about a half hour to find out what happened and call Darryl to the office. The next day after a parent conference, he was gone for ten days. We know Mrs. Alexander means what she says.
I headed home alone after school. After the last bell, I went to the library and sat at a cubicle for fifteen minutes, enough time to know that Jimmy, Tyler and Tracy had left. I just didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I know that Tyler would have confronted me and asked why I didn’t tell other students what Tracy had been doing. I probably made him look like a fool when I walked away.
I definitely didn’t want to see Tracy. He already thought that I was weak. He wouldn’t talk to me because I couldn’t tell others I was gay. I probably looked even weaker in his eyes because I walked away and wouldn’t confront Tyler.
Who is he anyway? What is the big deal about coming out? Just because he did it, doesn’t mean everyone can. I’m only seventeen, and I’ve got friends I’ve known since kindergarten. I can’t stand on a chair in the cafeteria and ask for everyone’s attention while I shout out, “Hey Everybody! I’m gay!” What does Tracy expect? Everyone to stand and applause?
He’s new, but he’ll see. He must have already experienced it because he left his old school because he was having problems. That’s what his father said. So, he can’t go judging me because I don’t want to go through the same shit he went though. Besides, he’s just started school here. This isn’t some backwards school in North Dakota. Mrs. Alexander may enforce a rigid bullying policy, but students can still do subtle things. They do it to Jeff all the time. I can’t begin to count how many times he’s been tripped or stumbled because some guy decided to stick his foot out just as he walks by.
And probably the worst thing is the isolation. You’d think Jeff has leprosy or the flu. No one associates with him in school. He may have friends at other schools, but when he’s inside our school, everyone ignores him. I’m not exactly a social butterfly, but I don’t think I could stand that. And if Tracy isn’t careful, he’s going to find out that the only person willing to talk to him is Jeff. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what he wants.
I arrived home and went straight to my room. Usually, I stop by the kitchen for a soda and a snack. Mom likes me and Karen to eat an apple or banana, but we usually will sneak and eat cookies, chips or something else she warns us is bad for our health. Karen usually beats me home because her school lets out fifteen minutes earlier than the high school. Mom used to make her go across the street with Mrs. Richmond until they moved away. She thinks she’s too young at eight to be left alone. She’ll probably ask Mrs. Craft to keep an eye on her until I get home. However, she mentioned to Mom the other night that she was looking for a part-time job somewhere.
I could hear Karen upstairs stomping around in her bedroom. When I peeked in and asked her if everything was alright, she told me to mind my own business. If she is this annoying at eight, I can’t imagine what she’ll be like when she becomes a teenager. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be in college.
I went to my room, closed my door and lay across my bed. This thing about being gay is really bothering me. It’s not the fact of being gay. I think I’ve kind of accepted that. It’s just that I don’t want others to know. But I’m starting to become obsessed with it since Tracy moved in across the street. Life was going along well. I was just me. Nothing special about that. But now, I’m scared to death that others will find out I’m gay.
I’m really trying to understand why I have this dread. I think it’s because I’m afraid that once I get branded that title- gay, then my life will then revolve around that. I won’t be normal Jack Woolery anymore. I’ll become GAY Jack Woolery.
And I know I’ll lose all my friends. Jimmy definitely won’t talk to me anymore. Neither will Tyler and Brian. I don’t have a lot of real friends, so I’m scared of losing the few I have.
So, if I come out, I’ll lose all my friends, and I’ll have to find new ones. There just aren’t that many options. I guess Tracy will become my friend once I’m out. I’m sure Jeff will be too. I’ll then have two friends- two gay friends. And then my life will be what I fear it will be- a gay life. I’m only seventeen. I don’t even know how to live a gay life. I was having trouble living a straight life. I was kind of just plodding along, usually trailing behind Jimmy, doing what he wanted to do. If I lose that, then who will I follow?
I thought about doing some homework, but I was too upset to concentrate. I lay across the bed and tried to sleep, but again, I just tossed and turned. I could hear Karen across the hall screaming to someone on her phone. It seems like some boy she likes was interested in another girl in her class and she was jealous. She was plotting how to break them up. She’s eight. How can an eight-year-old be so devious? One good thing. Mom and Dad won’t have to worry about her being a lesbian.
I was startled when the door flew open and Jimmy, Tyler and Brian came barging into the room. I sat up in bed and shouted, “You guys scared the shit out of me!”
Jimmy laughed and sat down beside me. Tyler sat next to him, and Brian sat at on my computer chair. “What’s up?” I asked.
Jimmy spoke, “Me and the guys have been talking.”
He replied, “That poof across the street.”
“Yeah, Man,” asked Tyler. “How come you walked away this morning? I wanted everyone to know what that freak does in his room.”
I stood and started pacing around the room. I said angrily, “I don’t get why you guys are bothering Tracy. He hasn’t done anything to you.”
Jimmy scowled and said, “But he’s a freaking ballet dancer.”
“So?” I asked as I stood before him. “He’s a ballet dancer. What does that have to do with you?”
Jimmy looked at Tyler and Brian to give him support. When they didn’t say anything, he remarked, “He’s a poof.”
“So?” I asked again. “What does that have to do with you?”
“That shit just ain’t right,” he replied.
“Maybe it ain’t right,” I said, “but it still doesn’t involve you.”
“You sound like you’re taking up for that poof,” he replied angrily. He stood and faced me. “What are you a poof too?”
“Jesus, Jimmy,” I said angrily. “You’re an idiot.” I started to turn, but he grabbed my arm and stopped me.
“I’m serious, Jack,” he said. “Why are you defending him?”
“I’m not defending him,” I insisted. “I just don’t think it’s any of our business. What Tracy does, doesn’t concern us.”
Jimmy looked at the other guys and stated angrily, “I’m sick of this shit. What he does is my business. I don’t want any poof running around our school. It’s bad enough that everyone knows that Jeff is a homo. We don’t need two.”
Jimmy headed toward the door. “Come on, Guys,” he motioned for Brian and Tyler to follow him. They stood and approached the door. Before leaving, Jimmy turned and said, “I’m beginning to wonder about you Jack.” They left, and I sat on the side of the bed and worried that my world may be falling apart.