WARNING: THIS IS A SENSITIVE TOPIC. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
This story addresses homosexuality. If this topic makes you uncomfortable for any reason, don’t read this. If you click Continue Reading, the story about a gay 7th grader shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. If it will, don’t keep reading.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoy the story.
I watch as Michael Stein opens his perfectly neat notebook to a new page, and quietly tears out a page. His slanted handwriting begins to fill the page, and I strain to get a good look at what he’s writing.
Do we have any science homework tonight?
He hands it to me, watching Mr. VonKovski to make sure he doesn’t notice. I read it, my heart sinking. I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe I’ve always loved you, Andy. Get over it. He isn’t gay or bi, and he doesn’t like you. I nod solemnly, and he returns to his book.
I watch him read, his blonde hair perfectly swept to the right, his brown eyes immersed in the book. I glance at the cover: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I crane my neck to read the back, but it’s too far away.
“Michael, come here please,” Mr. VonKovski says. Michael gets up and walks toward Mr. V’s desk, littered with papers and various photographs of his grandchildren. I hear him talking to Michael about his Humanities essay on the Evolution of Homosexuality, a topic I am very familiar with. I take my chance and stand up, peering at the book. I’m only a few words in when Jake Flacowski leans over.
“Watcha doin’ Andy?” he asks. I scream and fall backwards, landing hard on my butt. The class snickers, trying not to be too loud. A couple weeks ago, Allie Wright’s earphones got accidentally unplugged from her computer, and not-so-school-friendly music blared through the classroom. We were laughing so hard, Ms. Miyelmi—the art teacher—had to come in and intervene.
“Jake!” I scream, standing up and sitting back down in my desk, hard, sending my papers flying.
“You scream like a girl,” he laughs. Every ounce of my being surges up to combat the remark, and I resist the urge to smack him in the face.
“Maybe I do,” I retort. “And I’m proud of it. I’m proud of who I am.” Then why haven’t you come out yet? I ask myself.
Jake laughs and turns away. I glare at the class and their eyes slowly return to their computers, typing away on their essays. The minutes tick by, and we’re dismissed. I rush quickly down to the lunchroom, following closely behind Michael.
He turns around and sees me. “Hey Andy.”
“Hi,” I say. What are you, stupid? I ask myself. ‘Hi’? Is that the best you can do?
We walk down the stairs side-by-side, exchanging funny stories. We get to the lunchroom, and I quickly buy some meatloaf and walk back upstairs to the library on the 4th floor. I sit down in a beanbag chair and open my computer. I scroll through my bookmarked websites until I find what I’m looking for.
I open the site and enter my username and password, and open the chat box with Jenna.
Hey Andy! The message appears inside the gray box, with a green dot next to her name and profile picture: her and a fluffy white dog swimming in a lake.
I type back a response, telling her about how things have developed since when we last talked on Monday. I remember the first time I saw the website. I was figuring out my homosexuality, and signed up for CCO—Counseling for Coming Out. I took a short assessment to match me with a counselor, and I found Jenna. Without her I would likely have exploded with confusion and frustration.
I talked to her about Jake, and about Michael. She asks if I feel ready to come out to a close friend or family member. Since Alabama isn’t the most progressive state, I answer honestly: no.
The green dot goes black, and I panic. That means she went offline. Did I say something wrong? I ask myself. I study the bulletin board, where 3rd grade students write down what they’re currently reading. I’m surprised to see Heather Has Two Mommies under a kid named Josh’s name.
Moments later, Jenna comes back online.
Here. You might consider reading this. After it is a long URL, which I click on. It opens the Human Rights Campaign website. The title of the page is A Resource Guide For Coming Out. Under it are several links to select: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and so on. I click on gay.
A picture pops up of smiling teenagers wearing shirts that say Mighty Gay. I hear the chime ringing, which is the librarians are signaling us it’s time to leave the library. I quickly scan the page for a download link, and see it towards the bottom of the page. I select it, save it to a sneakily hidden folder and my desktop, and close my laptop.
∞ ∞ ∞
I see Michael on my way to Art on the second floor. He’s coming from the gym on the first floor. We walk together in silence until we get to the art room. We’re greeted by the familiar smell of clay and Styrofoam—Ms. Miyelmi’s favorite art supplies. The rest of the 6th grader file through the door, laughing and chatting.
Ms. Miyelmi smiles at us, her pink dyed hair tied up in a messy bun, traces of paint on her fingertips. She pulls out her computer and plugs it into the display board, and sculptures of animals made with mud-colored clay cover the wall.
“As usual, feel free to use any of the materials in this room to help you on your artistic journey.” She tells us, and we begin. I walk to the end of the room where empty soda bottles and cans line the wall, and I pick up a bottle.
I walk to the wall where tubs and tubs of clay are stacked, and I pick one up for my table—Michael, Jeremy Ash, Kirsten McConnahugh and Kirsten Lameina. Kirsten M. is hiding her phone under the table, and Michael is staring off into space. His brown eyes sparkling. I fall in love a little more.
I open the cabinet filled with giant jugs of paint, and grab small bottles of red, blue, green and yellow. I set the supplies down at the table, and I struggle to open the clay.
“Let me try,” Michael says. I hand it to him, and he pops it open instantly. I laugh, and begin working on my project. I grab some clay and mold it to get it soft. I make it about half an inch thick and about 7 inches long. I stick one part into the bottle, and mold the clay to form a half-arc.
I turn around and grab a palate from Ms. Miyelmi’s cluttered desk. Paint splotches, tape dispensers and flakes of Styrofoam make her desk a mountain that is every neat freak’s worst nightmare. I see Michael’s eye twitch whenever he looks at it.
I look over at his workspace, neat and organized. At some time he must have gotten up and got some bottles of paint, because a giant open jug of turquoise paint is next to him, along with tinfoil, pipe cleaners and cotton balls.
“What’re you making?” I ask him. He shrugs his shoulders and dips a cotton ball in the paint jug and places it slowly and carefully onto his pile of clay, which he hasn’t even bothered to sculpt into something remotely similar to anything in existence. I laugh and return to my art.
Kirsten L. is fidgeting with a small piece of clay. I hear someone scream ‘What was that for?’, and I turn suddenly. Abrielis Turner is standing there with red paint all over the front of his white t-shirt. Ms. Miyelmi also turns around to see what’s going on. Brandon Eplithal holds the murder weapon—a bottle of red paint clutched in his fist.
“I’m so sorry,” Brandon says. “It was an accident I swear,”. Ms. Miyelmi walks over, and takes Abrielis’ arm and ushers him to the nurse’s office, while giving Brandon the evil eye.
On her way out she shouts “Class dismissed!”. We shuffle out of the room. Group 1 heads to Social Studies. Group 2—my group—heads to math. I stop and get my binder and computer from my locker, which is basically bare.
In math, Mr. Pierowski lectures us on the importance of converting percents correctly, a concept most of us seventh-graders learned two years ago. I flip to the last page where I’ve written hundreds of times: I am gay. ~Andy Green.
I write it one more time, but then I notice Mr. P coming my way. I panic and tear the page out of my notebook, dropping it onto the ground and flattening it with my tennis shoes. My eyes shoot over to Cara Delevy’s notebook, and I quickly copy down everything she’s written.
I glance up to the board and realize we’re supposed to be working on problems written in Mr. Pierowski’s messy slanted handwriting. My hand moves automatically, flashing across the page.
My leg starts bouncing when I realize how easy these problems were. Sometimes that happens when I’m happy. Then my leg slams into the bottom of my desk, and my classmates turn to look at me. Pain shoots through my leg, and I stretch it out
I hear a clink from across me and look at Michael.
“I dropped my pencil,” he explains, then gets up from his chair and crawls under his desk. I smile when he comes back up; pencil held in his hand like it’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
After math, we get a 10-minute break. I sit outside the commons on the bench. And then, I realize something. I dash to the empty math room and peer under my desk. The piece of paper is gone. My heart is racing, my palms sweaty. I frantically run out of the classroom and head away from the commons. Then I hear it—someone calls my name.
I run as fast as I can toward the Matthew Liviña gallery, passing abstract artwork made by the 3rd graders. I hear them call my name again. I run faster, nearly tripping on the stairs as I dash down to the gym. I plan to hide in the bleachers for the rest of my life.
Michael turns around the corner. Dang it! He must have taken the shortcut! I run even faster, my legs pumping and my lungs pounding.
Finally, I have to sit down, and I slide under the bleachers, my side aching. Michael ducks under, and he pulls a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. He doesn’t even need to open it—I know what it is.
“So, you’re gay?” He asks. I’m still out of breath and panting heavily, but this is going better than I ever though it would. I’m too out of breath to speak, so I simply nod.
“Me too,” he says. I stare at him, dumbfounded. My eyes widen and my breath catches in my throat. I smile at him. And my leg starts to bounce.