My first session with my shrink was weeks away, so I did what I could to keep my head together while waiting. The next few days were complete shit as I struggled to stay sane. Boss thought he was doing me a favor by telling me to take a few days off, but truth to be told, I was going even more insane sitting indoors with only my own thoughts accompanying me.
And my father’s horrible words.
I didn’t dare to think about Cole because I feared it would make things worse. I’d hidden his letter and the DVD into one of the drawers in the entrance hall. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Wrong. More than a hundred times I caught myself peering towards that one particular drawer whenever I walked past it, and I did that a lot. I couldn’t sit still, but I was too afraid to leave my home.
Then I gave up. On the third day of staying at home, I finally faced the DVD. I had nothing to do, so why not watch it?
I had to admit it was entertaining, but it didn’t make me fall in love with cars. After it ended, I stayed on the couch, carefully trying to get to know myself better. Was there anything I was passionate about? No… Was there something I really enjoyed doing? No… Was there anything I liked more than something else?
Nothing… No matter how long I sat there thinking, there was only one answer: I was no one. I was a mechanic and I spent a lot of time at the gym, but that was it. I couldn’t even think of a favorite food because it was mere fuel to me.
I didn’t know if I liked watching movies, listening to music, having conversations…
Cole jumped into my thoughts again… I did enjoy talking with him, but that was a dangerous territory to step in. I was far from stable enough to be thinking about him.
To get my mind off things, I started cleaning my home. It took me hours, and once I was finally done, I had several bags of trash waiting by the door. Taking them out was the last thing on my list, so I put on my jacket, grabbed the keys and the bags before heading out.
The cool air felt nice on my face after spending the past days indoors, so I decided to walk around the block to stretch my legs. And another block. Then another. I walked aimlessly through the streets in no hurry. I didn’t want to go back home. There was nothing for me. When I stopped at an intersection to wait for the light to turn green, I watched the cars passing me by.
If I walked in front of one, I wouldn’t have to go back home where the only company I had was my own mind and my father’s voice… With luck, I would never have to go back home…
I closed my eyes, feeling nauseated. I just wanted to end it… End everything.
I crossed the street with everyone else after the light turned green. There was a young couple walking in front of me, holding hands. A group of five guys walked past us, laughing loudly. There was an old woman on the other side, straightening an old man’s jacket with a tender smile on her face. As I walked past them, the old man said, “Thank you, dear,” with a big smile on his face.
I turned to look away and walked.
And just like that, I arrived at the bar. Cole’s bar. I stared at it in shock from across the street. Why was I there? How did I get there? I was not stable enough to be there!
Still, I couldn’t continue walking. I stared at the big flag moving slowly in the wind. The familiar feelings took a hold on me. And I saw him. Cole. He was standing behind the counter, chatting with a customer. I took a step closer, but my father’s voice stopped me.
“Do you have tits or pussy? You don’t, so what does that make you?”
“A man,” I whispered automatically, reliving that moment again like it was happening right before my eyes.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re not a fucking man, you’re a pervert! You’re a squealer. Men fuck women. You really think you’re a man? You’re nothing! You’re human waste! Someone should cut your cock off because you are not a man! You will never be a man!”
I just wanted… For once…
I felt something warm and wet come down on my cheek, but I was frozen to my spot, so I let it be. I could only stare at Cole. I remembered the warmth talking with him had caused. The odd, good feeling I got every time I saw him arriving at the gym…
“I’m not a fag,” I whispered, more tears leaking over. “I’m not…”
A gay couple stepped out of the bar, and I turned to glare at them. They were holding hands as if it was all right. As if it was completely normal. They started walking, trying to decide what to get from the corner shop like any other couple would. No one batted an eye.
I watched them as long as I could, and when they entered the store, I turned my eyes back to the colorful flag on the wall. The people passing it by didn’t even notice it. No one gave a second look at the bar, like it was completely normal to have such a place flaunting the sexuality of the people inside.
My father’s voice grew silent, and I used that moment to cross the street. I stopped by the window, peered inside, and saw Cole cleaning the tables at the back. There were six people inside, groups of two and four. They all seemed to be having a great time. They looked just like regular people…
I turned to look for Cole again and nearly freaked out when I spotted him a few feet away from the door. He was watching me with a gentle smile on his face, and when our eyes met, he gestured for me to come inside.
I sprung around and started marching home, but the door opened in front of me, and Cole stepped out in a hurry.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he said, stepping in front of me. “Please – I want to talk with you.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” I said, walking past him.
“Did you like the movie?” he asked without skipping a beat, and for some reason, I slowed down.
“It was all right,” I found myself saying. No! I had to get home quickly and not have anything to do with him!
“Do you now understand why I love it so much?”
“Yeah… No. No!” I said, stopped and turned around. “Leave me alone – I’m not talking to you anymore!”
“But why? Please, tell me what’s wrong,” he said, his eyes sad and expression confused.
“Nothing is wrong,” I grunted, and tried to continue walking, but his next words stopped me.
“I know you’re struggling. I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I know that look, and I want you to know you’re not alone. I can talk a lot, but I’m also a good listener if you ever need someone to vent to. Or if you just want to have a beer that’s fine too – I opened this bar so people like us can have a safe place to hang out and have fun.”
I turned around to look at him again. I was so close to yelling at him that I was nothing like them, but somehow, I managed to snap my mouth shut. This was not me. Those words were not mine. I never wanted to hurt anyone, not physically or with my words.
It was my father who loved doing that.
“How about a beer? On the house? I promise to stay out of your hair, but… I feel like you could use a warm place to stay for a moment.”
“I do have a home,” I told him, but he took a step back to the door, inviting me to follow him without actually making any gestures.
“I don’t think you should be alone,” he said.
“Why would you think that?” I asked, involuntarily taking a step after him.
“I wonder why,” he murmured.
I realized he probably could tell I’d been crying. A huge part of me wanted to get the hell out of there, but still, I followed him. I wasn’t sure why I followed him… I just… I just felt like I should.
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