By Owen Hudson September 2007
I have always been shy. I'm nothing like my big brother, Tony. He is the jock of the family, and I'm the nerd. In spite of our differences, I idolized my brother. He has always been my protector and best friend. Often he has been my only friend. I tried to give him his space, but he habitually insisted that I tag along when he did things with his friends. If a friend wasn't willing to accept me, then they were no longer Tony's friends.
My dad had just accepted a position as Assistant Chief of Police, and the extra money had given us the means to buy a larger house in a better part of town. I loved our new house, but with the move Tony and I had to change high schools. Tony, being the good looking jock that he was, quickly adapted to the new school. I, on the other hand, wasn't adapting so well. Of course, Tony did try to include me in all of is activities. Tony was a senior and I was a junior and, since this school was larger than my old one, we rarely saw each other.
Most of the kids in my classes just ignored me, and I pretty much kept to myself. I didn't try to talk to any of my classmate until I had my first geometry class. I saw this really cute boy who was very quiet and kept to himself. Yeah, I'm gay. My family knows that I'm gay, but otherwise I'm not out. I learned that the cute boy's name was Jeff and I tried to be friendly with him.
I spent the entire week trying to become acquainted with Jeff, but he had made some excuse that he had a lawn to mow. I saw him in the cafeteria and asked if I could join him. He said that it was a free country. Although I actually knew his name, I told him mine and asked his. He told me to shut the fuck up and leave him alone. I once again felt alone and rejected. I thought he would have been nicer than that.
The rest of my day was shitty. I was still pissed at Jeff for treating me the way he did. After school as I was on my way home someone bumped into me. I saw it was Jeff and without thinking I said, "Fuck you, Jeff."
Jeff apologized to me for the way he treated me and said that his home life was shitty. I was still angry at him and said that was no reason for him to treat me like I was shit under his feet. He said that I was right and that if I wanted to walk with him he would explain his situation.
I soon learned that my life was fantastic compared to Jeff's. I learned that he had been abused by both of his parents. I tried to tell him that he needed to talk to my dad, but he said that would just make his situation worse.
We talked for about two hours and then Jeff said that he had better get inside or he would be in trouble. When he said this he looked so sad. I don't know why I did it, but I kissed him. It wasn't because he was cute, but because I felt empathy for him. As soon as I kissed him, he pulled away and said, "Goddamn it why did you do that." I saw a woman that I assumed to be his mother watching us out the kitchen window. Before I could explain or apologize Jeff rushed in the house. I saw his mother hit him with a bottle. I was so scared for Jeff but, I made a quick retreat and ran all the way home.
I felt so guilty for what I may have done to Jeff, but I was afraid to say anything to my family. Although they knew I was gay, they may not understand that I had actually kissed a boy. I decided that I would talk to Jeff at school the next day. However, the next day Jeff wasn't in school. I figured that he probably was bruised by his dad and was too embarrassed to be seen. He had said that his dad often beat him.
The next day Jeff still wasn't in school. I decided to go by his house and see if he was okay. His mom answered the door and said that he wasn't feeling well and was in his room sleeping. I was really worried now. What if he was really hurt bad?
After three days Jeff still wasn't back in school and I was afraid that his dad may have actually killed him. I didn't know what to do. I guess my concern was obvious and my brother came to my room and said, "Okay, Tommy Boy, spill it?" He often called me Tommy Boy when it was just the two of us.
"Spill what?" I questioned.
"Why have you been moping around for the past couple of days? What's going on?"
"Nothing is going on," I said.
"Don't give me that shit," Tony said. "I know you better than that. Is it the new school?"
"I really fucked up," I told Tony as I began to cry.
"It can't be that bad," Tony said as he wrapped his arms around me. I felt safe, but I also felt sad about what I had done to Jeff.
"It can't be that bad, Tom," he assured me. "You know you can tell me anything."
I knew that Tony meant it and that I could tell him anything. I wasn't sure were to began. I told Tony how I had met Jeff and that I had gone to his house. I didn't mention that I had kissed Jeff, but I'm sure he would have understood. After I told him what had happened, he questioned why Jeff's parents would have beaten him just because we were talking. I then confessed to Tony that I had kissed Jeff.
"Oh fuck, Tom!" He barked. "You can't be doing that stuff in public."
"I know Tony," I said. "I didn't do it as an act of passion, but as an act of compassion. He just looked so sad and miserable."
"Tom, you have to tell Dad about this," Tony insisted.
"I wanted Jeff to talk to Dad," I said. "But, he said that it would just make matters worse."
"But, Tom, he has been missing for three days now, and something bad could have happened to him," Tony maintained.
"You're right," I admitted. "I'll tell dad tonight."
Dad agreed that something serious could be wrong and that he would investigate to see if Jeff was safe. The next day I met dad at the door when he came home from work, and asked immediately, "What did you find out?"
"Well hello to you too, Tom," Dad joked.
"Hi Dad, now what did you find out?" I asked.
"Not much, son," he said. "Jeff's mom said that he had been sent to Tennessee to live with relatives. But, I didn't believe a word of it. I checked with the school and they said that nobody had requested his school records. That woman wasn't telling the truth, but as it stands there isn't much I can do but keep a close watch on their house. I'm going to talk to the District Attorney tomorrow and see what we can do legally."
"Do you think he's still alive?" I asked with a shaken voice.
"I honestly don't know, Son," Dad said. "But I intend to find out."
I was worried sick about Jeff, but none of the other kids seemed to care. Many didn't even know who he was, and those that did knew him as the quiet smart kid. Dad said that the District Attorney affirmed that without more evidence that they couldn't do much on finding Jeff. Did his parents actually send him to Tennessee, did he run away, or worse did they kill him. I wished that I had known him better and then I would have a better notion of where to search for him. I had fucked up a boy's life, if he still had a life, and I wanted to make things right. I just hoped that Jeff would forgive me when and if I ever saw him again.
I was determined that I wouldn't give up on finding out what happened to Jeff. Although it was out of my way, I walked by his house after school each day. Usually it appeared that nobody was home, but occasionally I would see his mother come and go. She usually appeared to be drunk. I decided that I probably should tell Dad about that so they could get her drunken ass off the road. The grass was becoming very much overgrown. I assumed that Jeff had been responsibility for the mowing. This clue caused me to worry even more.
"Dad, I need to talk to you about Jeff's mom," I said as we were having our evening meal. "I've seen her drive when she can hardly stand. Jeff said that she was rarely sober, and that his dad was drunk as soon had he got off the road from his truck driving job."
"If she is driving while drunk, then we need to get her off the road," Dad said. "I'll have the street patrolmen keep an eye out for her."
"Thanks Dad," I said. ”I still think Jeff's parents may have done something to him. I noticed that their lawn is very overgrown. It wasn't that way when I was there with Jeff."
"Son, I know that you're concerned about Jeff," Dad said. "But, maybe he really is safe and with relatives in Tennessee. It could be that he has just run away to avoid the abuse. Maybe he's found a safe place away from his parent."
I thought about what Dad had said for a minute and then I said, "I hope he is safe, but maybe if he did run away he has to live on the streets in some city."
A few days after I told Dad about Jeff's mom he informed us that she had been arrested for DUI. If they arrested her again she would lose her drivers license. "Is she in jail now?" I asked.
"No, she paid her fine and was released," Dad said.
"Fuck," I said without thinking.
"Thomas, watch your mouth," Mom reprimanded. She always called me Thomas when I was in trouble.
"I'm sorry, Mom," I apologized. "That bitch pisses me off."
"Thomas, I warned you," Mom said with a stern voice. "Go to your room."
I thought I saw a slight smile escape from Dad's face as I left the table to go to my room. I had almost finished eating anyway. I was sitting at my desk doing homework when Dad knocked on my door and said, "Son, I need to talk to you."
"Come in, Dad," I said. I knew I wasn't in trouble by the sound of Dad's voice.
"Son, I know you liked Jeff. But, you can't let this eat away at you," Dad said as he patted my hand.
"Dad's right, you know," Tony said as he leaned against my door. I hadn't seen him until he spoke. "We need to find you a boyfriend."
Even though my family knew I was gay, it was still embarrassing to hear my brother talk about a boyfriend. "I'm not a jock like you, Tony," I said. "You have both guys and girls checking you out."
"Dude, if you didn't dress like a nerd you wouldn't look like one," Tony said.
"Tony!" Dad reprimanded.
"It's alright, Dad," I said. "Tony is right. I do look like a nerd."
"Hey we can fix that," Tony said as he hugged me.
"Yeah right," I shrugged.
"I'm not shitting you," Tony said as he looked to see if Mom was close enough to have heard him. "All you have to do is dress differently."
"This is all I have and besides I wouldn't know what to wear," I confessed.
"Until we can get you some new clothes you can have some of mine," Tony said with enthusiasm.
"Yeah, then I'd just look like a nerd in clothes that were too big for me," I said.
I didn't make the statement to be funny, but Tony and Dad both cracked up. "I have some that are now too small for me," Tony said after he gained his composure. "Your jeans will be fine, and we'll find some shirts that fit you. I'll help you pick out what to wear until you get the idea. Come with me." Tony pulled me out the door and toward the garage.
"Where do you two think you're going?" Mom called out as we headed out the door. She wasn't the only one that wanted to know.
"I'm taking Tom to the mall for a haircut," Tony answered.
"Well I guess he does need a haircut," Mom admitted.
Fortunately, the family style center wasn't busy when we arrived and we didn't have to wait. "What are we going to be doing for you," the pretty stylist said with a smile that was meant for my brother rather than me.
"My brother needs a more stylish cut," Tony said before I could answer. "Cut it kind of short on the sides and little bit of a spike on top."
"Like that guy there," the stylist said as she pointed to a picture of a good looking guy hanging on the wall.
"Yeah, that's what we want," Tony said with a little more excitement than I thought was necessary.
"We?" I asked. "It isn't 'our' hair. It's 'my' hair. Besides, there's no way in hell I could look like that guy."
"Shut up, and let Shelly cut your hair," Tony said as he tapped me on the head and leaned to read Shelly's name on her smock.
Shelly smiled at the good natured bantering between my brother and me as she began working on my unruly hair. By the time she was finished with my haircut Tony was smiling from ear to ear.
"What?" I questioned.
"Bro, you look goooooood," Tony smiled as he put an emphasis good.
I had to admit that I did look better after the cut. All the way back home, Tony kept looking at me and grinning.
"Oh my, Tom, you look like Tony did when he was your age!" Mom exclaimed.
"No way," I said.
"She's right, you do look like Tony," Dad agreed. "Tony, go get the photo album, and we'll show him."
I had to admit that I did look a little like Tony, but with out the muscles.
The next morning Tony was dragging me out of bed before my alarm sounded. "Get up and get your shower, and then when you're done I'm going to make you look good."
After I had finished my shower, I discovered that Tony had picked out my wardrobe for the day and had them on my bed. "After you're dressed, I'll help you with your hair," Tony said. I could see that he was enjoying this much more than I was.
Once Tony had helped me with my hair, he stood back and said, "Dude, you do look hot."
I laughed and said, "Yeah, right."
"Don't sell yourself short, Bro," He said. "I can help you add a little muscle and bulk you up some. But, you already look good.
I didn't expect the results of a stylish hair cut and shirt made, but the kids began treating me differently. Even Candice Compton was eying me. Candice was the most snobbish girl in the entire school. Little did she know that she wasn't on my list of people that I wanted to date. That was the best day of my life until I went to my geometry class and saw the empty chair where Jeff once sat. I wondered if he would like the way I looked.