Dancing on a Star
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I sat on the side of Tracy’s bed, and Jeff sat beside me and held my hand. “Is there anything I can do?” he asked worriedly.
“Yeah,” I replied angrily. “Find me a new mother.”
“What is wrong with her?” he asked. “Mom and Dad said she seemed alright after they talked to her Saturday.”
“I don’t know why she’s acting like this,” I said. “It isn’t even like her.”
Jeff suggested, “She must have a reason.”
I shrugged my shoulder and replied, “I don’t know what it is.”
Just then Tracy entered the room with his mother. She sat on the other side of me and held my hand. “I don’t know what to tell you, Jack.” She squeezed my hand tighter.
“But why does she hate me so much?” I asked as tears started to fall down my face.
“I really don’t know,” she replied. She stood and looked down at me. “I need to go have a good talk with her,” she stated angrily. “No mother should be acting like this toward her child.” I started to stop her, but she rushed from the room.
I rose from the bed. “I gotta get out of her for a while,” I told Tracy and Jeff. When I turned to leave, they began to trail behind me.
“Sorry, Guys,” I insisted, “but I really want to be alone.” They looked worriedly at me as I turned and headed out the door. I thought they would try to stop me, but they didn’t.
When I reached the sidewalk, I looked across the street at my house. I wondered what Mrs. Craft was saying to my mother. I wasn’t sure there was anything that she could explain to her that would make her change her mind.
As I walked away, a slight breeze was blowing. I pulled the thin collar to the jacket I was wearing over my neck. I considered turning around and going back to my home to get a heavier coat, but I didn’t want to confront my mother again.
I really didn’t know where I was heading. I looked at the time on my phone. It was only 4:18. Since it was early, I decided to go to the mall and walk around. It took me about 35 minutes to get there.
The mall was rather quiet when I arrived. I strolled around looking into windows. I saw a neat pair of sneakers in the window of a Footlocker, but I had no money to buy them. Before this week, I could have begged Dad into buying them for me. All I had to do was remind him what a wonderful son I am. Usually, the good grades and keeping my room clean would work. Now, though, I don’t think he would buy the wonderful son routine anymore. I looked down at the sneakers I was wearing, and I figured they would probably have to do until I graduated from school. By the looks of them, I don’t think they would last another two years.
My cellphone rang, and I looked to see who was calling. It was Jeff. I know he was concerned about me, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I needed to be alone to try and sort things out.
I’m sixteen, I thought to myself. How can my life be so complicated when it hasn’t even begun? Chills rang down my spine when I considered what the rest of my life might be like. Would the rest of my life be like this, walking alone and wondering what tomorrow might bring? I was certain of one thing- I couldn’t live the rest of my life like this.
I reached into my pocket to see how much money I had. I had four ones, two quarters and three nickels. “Wow,” I said to myself. “I got $4.65. I’m rich.” I laughed out loud and headed to the food court. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so I decided to have an early dinner. Besides, if I returned home, I would have to deal with my mother again.
I wandered into the food court and read the menus above each vendor. Since my funds were limited, I tried to decide what I could get for $4.65. After looking over my options, I decided on Gold Star Chili. I had enough to get two coney hot dogs and a small drink. The waiter behind the counter was cute, and he appeared to be flirting with me. I wasn’t in the mood, but I did think that perhaps I would return when I felt better.
The food court was sparsely populated, so I didn’t have trouble finding a table where I could eat. Looking around, there were about five other shoppers eating by themselves, so I didn’t look out of place. I had just taken the first bite of my coney when I noticed three of my classmates enter. They were a boy and two girls in my grade. I had attended school with them since the first grade. The boy’s name is Murray Reynolds. He’s rather popular, but he doesn’t play sports. However, he is involved in just about everything else that doesn’t involve a ball. In the eighth grade I developed a secret crush on him. We shared several classes together, and I would always try to sit near him. However, I was too scared to get too close because I didn’t want him to think that I was weird or something.
The two girls are Emily Fraser and Kelly Smith. Emily became Murray’s ‘official’ girlfriend in the ninth grade. They are inseparable in the hallways. At first, I was jealous; but then I realized that Murray was only a fantasy. Guys like him aren’t gay. Now we just nod at each other in the hallways when we pass with Emily’s arm wrapped around his.
I watched out of the corner of my eye as they looked at the various vendors. Finally, they decided on the Chinese Emporium. It took them about ten minutes to get their meal. There was only an old woman behind the counter, and it seemed like it took forever for her to prepare their plates. After paying, they turned and looked around the food court for a place to sit. My heart stopped when Murray pointed at me, and they headed my way.
They walked over and stopped before me. “Hey, Jack,” smiled Murray. “Do you care if Emily, Kelly and I join you?” Before I could respond, he pulled out the chair beside me and sat down. Emily and Kelly said hello as they sat down.
Murray laughed as he noticed the coneys on my plate. “I like the hot dogs,” he said, “but the sauce they put on them tastes like dog food.” Emily giggled and asked him how he would know what dog food tastes like.
“I tried it once when I was about six,” he replied. “My mother had just fed my dog, and he was woofing it down like it was so good. So, I grabbed a handful and shoved it in my mouth.”
“Ewww,” giggled the girls.
He laughed and said, “You got that right. I spit it out, and my mother washed my mouth out.” He laughed louder, “I learned my lesson after that.”
I smiled at him. I still couldn’t figure why they had sat beside me. Surely, they had heard about the fight with Jimmy. By now, I was sure everyone knew that I am gay.
As if reading my mind, Kelly looked over and said angrily, “Jimmy Taylor is an ass. I heard what he did to you.” She reached across the table and patted my hand. “Are you okay, Jack?”
I had to blink away tears as I replied, “Yeah, I’ll be alright.”
“He still shouldn’t have done what he did,” Murray said angrily. “You guys have been best friends for years. You don’t shit on friends like that.”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I guess he had his reasons.”
“No, he didn’t,” responded Emily. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t give him a right to treat you like he did.”
My eyes widened in surprise. She talked about me being gay as if there was nothing wrong about it. I figured by now that everyone in school would hate me. Afterall, they had avoided Jeff for years.
Kelly looked over and smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Jack. Nobody cares.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. “I don’t know,” I replied. “The past week has been pretty rough.”
“Well,” responded Murray. “You got Jeff and that new kid, Tracy. They’ll help you through it.”
I started to laugh. “Jeff?” I asked, “You guys have treated him like shit since he came out.”
Murray grabbed my arm. “We were wrong,” he apologized. “Now that we’re getting older, we realize that we shouldn’t have treated him like that.” He looked over as Emily and Kelly nodded.
He continued, “A lot of us have been talking, and we’re going to try and make it up to him somehow.”
“I don’t know, Guys,” I said as tears once again welled up in my eyes. “He’s been pretty hurt. I don’t know if he can get over it.”
Kelly said, “Maybe when he sees that you’re still our friend, he’ll change his mind.”
“I’m still your friend?” I asked incredulously. “Why?”
Murray laughed and replied, “I just told you. We’re older. We’re putting that lame shit behind us.” He puffed out his chest and said, “We’re the future. We gotta show the old folks just how bad they fucked things up.” Emily and Kelly started giggling. I just looked at him in amazement. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t see anything wrong with me being gay; and importantly, they still wanted me to be their friend.
Murray held up his fist. “Friends?” I smiled and bumped fists with him. We spent the next half hour talking about school. Kelly told me she would help me with my assignments when I returned to school. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to make up the work, but at least I wouldn’t fall behind on what was taught.
When they left, I sat for a few minutes at the table as tears fell down my face. I still couldn’t comprehend what had happened. Maybe we were getting older and we had to change. For the first time in a week, I felt that I could maybe face another day.
I walked around the mall for another fifteen minutes and then decided to leave. I was bored. I wanted something to do, but I didn’t know what. The past few days have been stressful, and I just wanted to put things aside for a while. I could always go to Jeff’s house or Tracy’s, but we would only sit around and talk about the fight. I needed a distraction, but I didn’t know what that was.
As I headed home, I felt a little better about things. Talking to Murray, Emily and Kelly helped me realize that maybe things could be better at school. They were popular, and if they accepted me, then others would follow their lead. I was also a little hopeful that things could get better for Jeff. Maybe they could convince others to be more accepting of him.
I was two blocks away from home when I noticed Jimmy and Tyler across the street heading my way. I quickly looked around to see where I could run in case they wanted to confront me. I know that Jimmy has a bad temper, and I am sure that he wanted to get even with me for getting him suspended from school for ten days.
I stopped when he hollered out, “Hey, Fag! Come here!” He began motioning for me to cross the street. I quickened my pace in hopes of being able to get ahead of him so I could run home.
He and Tyler started to cross the street. “Leave me alone, Jimmy!” I shouted out. “I haven’t done anything to you!”
A smirk appeared on his face as he stood in the middle of the road. “Yes, you have, Fag Boy.” He rubbed the side of his face. “Did you really think you could hit me and get away with it?” He started to rub his knuckles. “Now, it’s your turn!”
I quickened my pace and was able to get ahead of him before he could cross the street. When I looked back, he and Tyler were running toward me. I tore off running, trying to get home before they could catch up to me.
Suddenly, I felt Jimmy’s hand reach out and attempt to grab my shoulder. I ran faster and started to run across the street. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the blue van coming down the street.
I ran directly into its path. I could feel my body being tossed across the hood of the car and into the windshield. I lay motionless as the van screeched to a stop. My body rolled off the hood and onto the street below.
I was too scared from the impact to immediately realize how badly I was hurt. The driver of the van, a middle-aged woman, exited the van screaming and crying. She knelt beside me and kept asking me if I was hurt.
I felt dizzy. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stay awake. I sensed that my injuries might be serious, but as I lay on the ground, I couldn’t comprehend just how badly I was hurt.
Jimmy and Tyler knelt beside me, and Jimmy was frantic. He kept crying that he was sorry. Tyler sat on the road and put my head in his lap. I could see blood covering the khaki shorts he was wearing. Soon, I was surrounded by numerous people as they came out of their houses to see what had happened. I could hear them telling 911 where the accident had occurred.
Before I lost consciousness, I heard Jimmy crying into his cellphone, “Hurry, Mr. Craft! Jack’s hurt real bad!”
I’m not sure how long I was out, but the next thing I remember was waking up and realizing I was inside an ambulance. I could hear the siren blaring above. “Jack!” It was my father’s voice, and then I could sense him leaning over and hugging me.
“Get back, Sir,” a voice warned. “You don’t want to hurt him.” My father held my hand as I tried to open my eyes.
“Stay calm, Son,” my father said soothingly. “You’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry.” I don’t remember anything more after that.
I was groggy. I couldn’t comprehend why I was lying in a hospital bed. I opened my eyes, but I was alone. I slowly was becoming aware of my surroundings. The first thing I realized was that my right arm was in a cast. I tried to lift it off the bed, but I was too weak.
Memories of what happened began to flood my thoughts. I remembered Jimmy and Tyler chasing me, and I attempted to avoid them by running across the street. After that, I couldn’t remember much. I could recall hearing my father’s voice, and for some reason I could remember Jimmy crying and telling me he was sorry. However, everything else seemed to be blocked from my memory.
My back was hurting, and I tried to adjust myself in the bed, but I couldn’t. When I attempted to move my legs, I couldn’t feel them. I looked down and noticed that my left leg was in a cast.
Suddenly, the door opened, and a young doctor walked in carrying a clipboard. He smiled when he saw my eyes opened. “Good,” he said cheerfully. “You’re awake.” He walked over to the bed and looked down at me. “How do you feel?”
I asked, “What’s happened to me?”
“What do you remember?” he asked. As he lifted the bed sheet and examined my left leg.
I told him, “I think I got hit by a car, but I’m not sure.”
He smiled and said, “You did. Can you tell me anything else that happened?”
I rested my head on the pillow and replied, “I don’t remember much. I just remember being chased.”
“Who was chasing you?”
“Two guys,” I replied. I wasn’t sure if I should say anymore. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t think that Jimmy and Tyler were to blame. I should have looked before running into the street. I asked, “How bad am I hurt?”
“I’m Dr. Vorhees,” he informed me as he examined my right arm. “I’m your attending doctor.” He took out a small flashlight and examined my eyes. “Your injuries are bad, but they could be worse.”
He pulled back the sheet so I could see the cast on my left leg. “You received a compound fracture from the impact of the van,” he explained. “You’ll be walking with crutches for a few months.”
I looked down at my right arm. “What about my arm?”
He replied, “You broke it.” He smiled and added, “I guess you can tell that by the cast.”
I asked worriedly, “Anything else wrong with me?”
“A few things,” he replied, “but nothing a few months rest won’t fix. You fractured a couple of ribs, so you may experience chest pain and difficulty breathing.” He examined my forehead. For the first time, I was aware that my head was hurting slightly. “You’ve got a pretty nice knot on your head. I guess that is from hitting the windshield.” I let out a whimper when he pressed on it. “We’re going to monitor you for a few days to make sure there wasn’t any serious damage.”
He removed the pillow from behind me and fluffed it. He lifted me forward as he placed the pillow in place. “Why don’t you try to get back to sleep for a little while.” He looked at his watch. “It’s four in the morning, and I’m sure you’ll have quite a few visitors later.”
“How long have I been here?” I asked. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since I arrived. It could have been hours or days. I didn’t know.
“You came in last night,” he informed me. “You were in surgery for a couple of hours and then we brought you here to your room.”
“I don’t remember much,” I confessed.
“Of course not,” replied Dr. Vorhees. “You’ve been sedated most of the time.” He patted me on my leg again. “I’m glad you’re doing better. You should be going home in a few days.” He started to leave the room.
“Doctor?” He stopped and turned. “Will I be alright?”
He laughed and replied, “Well, you won’t be playing basketball for a while. But yes, you’ll be alright.”
“Thanks.” He gave me a thumbs up and left the room.
I couldn’t go back to sleep. I kept thinking about everything that had happened since last week. Is it possible for so much to happen so quickly? It began when my mother saw me kissing Tracy. And we weren’t just kissing- it was almost an X-rated show she saw. If they had waited a few more minutes before opening the door, we probably would have been naked on the floor in a 69 position.
Things went downhill from there. She hates me. Even an intervention didn’t help. She doesn’t want me seeing Tracy and Jeff anymore because she thinks they turned me gay. She’s one of the reasons I’m lying in a hospital bed. If she hadn’t said all the cruel things she said, I wouldn’t have stormed out of the house. I wouldn’t have gone to the mall, and I wouldn’t have been walking home by myself. She’s partially to blame for what happened to me.
If only she had been more understanding. Maybe I did disappoint her, but she is my mother. Shouldn’t she accept me being gay? There is supposed to be a bond between us. Don’t mothers when they give birth feel a certain responsibility to love and protect their infant child. Is it possible for a mother to give up that responsibility when a child becomes a teenager and isn’t what they hoped they would become when they were a baby in her arms?
Fathers have a responsibility, but a child isn’t pulled from his womb. His duty was met nine months earlier. I could understand if my father turned his back, but my mother? I came from her body. For nine months I was a part of her. I don’t understand how she can reject me so quickly simply because I’m gay.
I’m born from her and Dad’s genes. Every cell of my body came from them. Does that mean there is a gay gene, too? I don’t know much about this stuff, but if my eye color, my hair color, my build and other things come from my parents, then doesn’t me being gay come from them too? I’m not Halloween candy that kids get when they trick or treat. You can’t lay out what I am and sort through it removing the parts that you don’t think are acceptable. I’m who I am, and I can’t change that. Then why don’t they understand?
Dad gets it. I know he does. He may not like that I’m gay, but he accepts that I am. He’s not trying to change me. He’s not telling me who my friends can be. He seems to genuinely like Tracy, although he did insult him when he first met him. But I think he’s gotten over that.
I’m tired and I can’t think anymore. I’ve been through so much, and my mind and body are wearing down. Now, I have to deal with a broken body. I already felt that my mind was breaking. I’m not sure how much more I can take. If so much has happened in one week, I’m afraid what might happen in one year or even ten years.
Right now, I need some sleep, but I can’t. I’m lying in a bed with a fractured arm and leg. My head hurts from the impact of the windshield. It hurts to breathe. The doctor says I’ll heal in a few months, and my body will be as good as new.
But what about my spirit? It is broken, and I’m not sure that it can be healed. I want to dance on a star like Tracy says. It’s his retreat when things are bad, when he feels he can’t go on anymore.
I closed my eyes and dreamed of dancing on a star.