(excerpt from novel-in-progress)
Because ‘U R a fag’ is scrawled in black Jiffy marker across his locker.
Because after school last Wednesday, the girlfriend of the guy he loves hurled frozen dog shit at him, and her friends frisbeed his skateboard into the river. Even though he stomped and cracked through the ice shelving the banks, waded in to rescue it – after the shouting and shoving, they were stronger than they looked, all those girls with their cello-playing fingers, yanking him back by handfuls of coat, handfuls of hair, hooking with their elbows and digging in their fingernails as he scrambled after his skateboard – the banks too slippery and shattered with ice, the current too swift, the water too cold and deep and brown. Freezing river water to his chest, the water and ice shards wicking into his armpits, his heart, the tips of his fingers breaking off and floating away. His black coat wet and sucking him down into the current. His skateboard hiding in that river.
Because when the guy he loved gave him a kiss so electric electrons shot into his penis, his toes, it was like he’d discovered Planet X he was so elated, and he ejaculated into his pants, but they were just a pair of pants, luckily black, luckily dark outside, luckily when he got home his mother was clicking and squealing into the phone about how she wanted to replace the new stone kitchen counter with newer, stonier kitchen counter, and his father’s face blue before the flickering of the tv, mouth open and tongue drying out like a leftover slice of roast beef with the snoring, his arm triangled behind his head.
Because in an email the girlfriend says, – We’re going to kill you soon. Because she knows he lives at 2279 Moth Hill Crescent SW, and that Sunday mornings at 10:30 he walks around the corner to the coffee shop near his house and buys a Sunday New York Times; knows Monday nights he likes to watch his favourite TV show Sector 6A: Red Alert at 8 pm; knows that at 9 pm every night he plays Divinity Twelve with his imaginary, online, why-not-just-buy-a-blow-up-doll-and-get-it-over-with friends; every second night – knows that is, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday like a wobbly-assed soccer mom trapped in a dead marriage – he orders a supreme-sized iced moccacino from drive-thru at the Tim Horton’s on 12th Ave; she knows that all day and all night on weekends and on Monday , Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons after school he jacks off in his cubby-hole bedroom, splattering his computer like the devient he is because he’s a loser with no friends, and that’s why you deserve to die you fucking faggot cocksucker fuckface royal eater of shit. She has almost all of his days right, except for one or two pockets of time when he’s secretly meeting with her boyfriend. She and her foot soldiers probably have their Psycho-Training classes at those exact times. Lucky him. And deviAnt, not deviEnt. Though it still means he’s a dead boy.
Because the guy he loves, Ginger, gave him a heart-shaped locket, and the dead boy said, – But this is for a girl.
– I love you like a girl, said Ginger. – It belonged to my grandmother.
Ginger was wearing layers that day, a blue sweater on top of a white t-shirt on top of a striped long-sleeved shirt; all the layers still showed off his flat, gorgeous abs, and the hard mounds of his pecs. So the dead boy took the necklace Ginger gave him and wound the chain around his own neck. Clicked it into place. – There’s no picture in it, said the dead boy. – No, Ginger said, – You don’t need a picture because we see each other in the halls every day. Ginger’s eyes welled up, one drop tracing silver on the blue sweater. – But see the rose engraved on the front? It’s a red one.
– I don’t get it, said the dead boy. – So what if it’s red? Actually it’s gold. I don’t see the red you’re talking about. Are you stoned? The dead boy laughed, sound erupting in the marble and granite forest.
Ginger kissed the dead boy, their lips and tongues and bodies fitting puzzle piece into puzzle piece, Ginger’s layers peeled and discarded, skins moulted in the dead grass, the gold locket pressing between skin and skin.
The dead boy and Ginger fumbled their clothes back on in the dark, their bodies steaming, dizzy as kittens, Ginger hurrying into his jacket, the dead boy pulling on Ginger’s sweater, then his own long coat, the smell of Ginger knitted to his skin.
Because the dead boy is afraid to leave his house, in case today is the day, his mother gnaws at him with her mandibles to hurry up, – The sun doesn’t beam out of your bum even if you seem to think so, she says.
He hates the way she says “bum” – like he’s a kid. He crunches his cereal, one sugary shamrock, one clover, one Lucky Charm at a time, and listens to his parents drink their orange juice – their swallows loud and revolting – and watches his mother x-ray the Monday morning paper, sometimes her lips even moving, the heart-shaped locket swinging on the outside of his three t-shirts and a blue argyle sweater, where she can see it, where his father sloshing his coffee into a travel mug can see it. He watches his parents drive away in their separate, oversized pollution machines. His father slinging a briefcase stitched together from an endangered species; his mother meandering out to buy the hunks of dead animal she calls groceries before retiring to her studio in her fashionable sweatshop pants, made by tiny brown children for less than a nickel a day.
Because he fought to see the Principal last week, springing across the moat and scrambling up the fortress wall of secretaries and Vice Principals, and the Principal straightened his tie, scraped forward his chair, jingled the keys in his pocket, said, – If they purloined your skateboard when you were all off school property, there’s nothing I can do. That would be more of a matter for the police.
The Principal clearing his throat emphatically to indicate the matter closed.
Because he ran into his Language Arts teacher at the Pita Pit at lunchtime, she always wears black clothes that blossom with her own white, chalky handprints. She is the only teacher who ever says anything like, – That attitude smells worse than poo, when someone calls The Glass Menagerie a fag play, say. He told her about the Principal, and she said, – The Principal really said that to you? You’ve got to get out of this school.
Because her eyelids and pinked lips twitched, like how the dead boy felt that time he got hit by a car on his bike and could feel the back of his head resting in something wet. Just a rain puddle.
Because the dead boy and Ginger had scorching sex in the dead grass, their bodies flared in the dark, in the middle of a February Chinook, the smell of Chinook and Ginger in his nose, Head & Shoulders shampoo, blue wool sweater the dead boy pulled up over Ginger’s head, Ginger’s sweaty silky ribcage, flowery fabric softener from all six of their shirts, Ginger’s tongue pushing bright as a meteor into the dead boy’s, Ginger’s nipples, the warm, salty scent of his cock, behind a tombstone that said, Lél Somogyi Gone But Never Forgotten 1987-2004. Ginger’s torso naked and slick, dead grass and twigs sticking to his skin, the dead boy accidentally on purpose pulling on Ginger’s blue sweater over his head in the dark, and Ginger so hot he forgot the sweater, tugging on his other shirts and his jacket in a rush because he was late for home. The next day in the hallway between periods one and two, Ginger’s fingers stroking and sticking in his girlfriend’s tangled black hair while they prodded their way through the waves of students pushing, bumping, and clanging lockers around them, the dead boy wading towards them as though by pure cosmic coincidence, Ginger hovering over a tangle in his girlfriend’s hair, and not catching the dead boy’s eye even for a second even though they had agreed last week that occasional eye contact was not completely verboten, in public they could kiss with their eyes, no one could tell if they just used their eyes, and quickly. Ginger’s irises radiating aurora borealis from Hershey Kiss brown into caterpillar green, a hazel colour meant for kissing. Their bodies’ protons and electrons zinging across the shortening space between them; each of them a sun, each of them a planet in orbital thrall to a sun, the dead boy hugging himself in Ginger’s blue sweater. The body slam of Ginger gliding around and away from the dead boy and not a single eyekiss, acting like the dead boy was already dead.
Because an envelope with the dead boy’s name on it had been slipped into his locker when he came back from lunch at the Pita Pit, a corner of it stuck in the metal seam between the locker’s inside wall and floor, and when he ripped it open starting at the crumpled corner, he found a Valentine’s card – a painting of two mallard ducks ringed with ivy twined into a heart shape. Inside, scrawled in pencil, Happy Valentine’s Day Faggot. Love, G.
Because Ginger’s girlfriend hissed at him, she is such a dyke-in-training and she doesn’t even know it, so he hissed back even though he knew he was doomed.
Because as he scraped himself down the crowded walls of the cafeteria, a jughead accompanied by a jughead parasite said, – Out of my way homo, as they chewed their way into the middle of the cafeteria lineup.
Because on his walk to school today, Monday, a cat pads by in the dead boy’s path with a grey and yellow bird in its mouth, stepping into human bootsteps already pressed into the ice and snow, neat, like a dog carrying a newspaper.
Because the crosswalk light shines its red eye forever, refuses to blink into green, the cars streaming by, spitting gravelly snow at his feet, one slap to his face after another on this Monday that refuses to start and refuses to end. A Monday three days after they drowned his skateboard, three days after Ginger gave him a valentine’s card, and two days after Ginger’s girlfriend wrote the typo-laden fuck-filled email. Monday. So he turns and tromps back home, the frozen rubber soles of his shoes scuffing iced and snowy concrete, though home feels an hour and a half walk away from school and he’s forgotten to wear a scarf. The wind slathering cold all over his throat and chest.
Because he’s decided he can no longer bear the sarcophagus of his christian name, so he changes his name to X because he knows that eventually he and every other person like him will just be another X. – My name is X, he repeats to himself.
Because he saved up for his skateboard for months and months, and now it lies rotting at the bottom of that brown, shitty river.
Because he would rather be in charge of his own ending.