Freshman year was when my life first began. It was when I started feeling alive rather than simply being alive. It was when I acquired a best friend named Shane, who supported me even after I came out to him. It was when I started trying the things every parent doesn't want you to try but every high schooler tries anyways; I'm talking beer and weed and kissing. My first kiss was with a boy, on homecoming, during spin-the-bottle, and I had to kiss him in front of his girlfriend. Memories like that were what made the year fantastic.
If only I knew I was going to start to bleed out.
Like many Freshman, I found the entrance to the so-called "rabbit-hole" of illicit things and I traveled down some paths, each darker and more dangerous than the last. Inevitably, I stumbled and fell in the dark. After that, it only festered. I trudged down the freshman hall without any purpose in my steps. My face became a mask with a perpetual frown underneath. The essence of life was slipping away from me fast. If it wasn't for someone I had met, someone I needed, I would have ended it for real.
Let's begin with my discovery of the rabbit hole.
Last March, I played Dungeons and Dragons with a mixed bag of upperclassmen. Cecil, a sophomore, sat next to me; I would occasionally stare at his ass or his always-perfect hair when he wasn't looking. Two senior girls sat on the opposite side of the table. This was Cass and Hazel. I knew Cass to be a right bitch, while Hazel was a ball of sunshine. The two of them went insane when we were playing. Finally, there was calm and collected Ramona, a mature-acting senior who was our DM.
One thing that contributes to my travels down the rabbit hole is my high school’s obsession with sex. Cassidy and Cecil fucked, a lot. Hazel talked at length about her sexual adventures that both included and excluded her boyfriend Magnus. Caylyn, who was never there, was never there for the express purpose of getting dick. And Ramona was a lesbian whom… I’ve never heard talk about sex, actually (calm and collected as always).
As a freshman in a room of sophomores to seniors, it felt like the pressure was on me to have sex as quickly as possible. The problem was, I wasn't like them. I wanted things to be at a good time, in a good place. I wanted to take things slow. I wanted a soft first time.
But I wanted it very much. I needed to get someone and maybe get to like them enough to do that with them, to let them be soft with me. I needed that someone, and soon. I looked over at Cecil. He cocked an eyebrow at me. I looked away with a frown.
I asked Hazel if she knew of someone who I might be interested in.
Hazel held the epitome of hookup advice in her brain. I had to ask her as soon as the game hit break.
“Well, I know a kid named [Mikey? Markie? I don’t remember], but he’s kinky.”
“That’s fine,” I said. It wasn’t fine, but I could probably convince him that I needed it vanilla.
“There’s Zeke,” Cecil suggested.
“Oh, no, no,” Hazel went, ‘’I wouldn’t make you deal with Zeke. He’s really, like, I don’t know—obsessive. He wouldn’t leave you alone.”
Hazel’s warning wasn’t loud enough to combat Cassidy screaming “And Zeke’s TRAAAANS! Carlin doesn’t want VAGINA. Look at how many dicks he draws on his character sheet!”
“I don’t mind it, actually,” I responded to Cassidy.
Cassidy and Cecil both gave me a look that made me feel like I had just violated my Gay Card. But I really didn’t mind.
“I’ll text [M-name], but he doesn’t respond much,” Hazel said.
The session ended with Cassidy and Cecil announcing that they were going to fuck upstairs, so guests needed to leave. That must be fun, I thought as I hitched a ride with Ramona, to have sex with someone just whenever. I hoped it was at least fun.
I was counting on Hazel to get back to me about that one M-named guy.
Skip to a little later in the month, Hazel had not gotten back to me.
I stood in a crowded room, full of people and art pieces. I just knew I was about to get first place in the drawing section of the valley’s art contest. I was miles above college students; I had heard this since age 12, and I hadn’t even wanted all that attention. Now I did. Three years of the same commentary does a lot to the ego. In retrospect, it was a good thing that that ego got sledgehammered into second place.
What?! Who the fuck won? I had thought.
‘’Cecil Heron,’’ the announcer said.
That curly-haired Adonis had bested me, and I couldn’t even be mad about it.
After the awards ceremony, I had jokingly said, in a British accent, ‘’YOU DEVIL! YOU STOLE MY CROWN!’’
My mom thought I was being serious.
Cecil laughed in that way he always did, with a curly smile to match his hair, then walked over to a tall girl with a dimply smile on her face—wait, it was Hazel!
I immediately steamrolled over the crowd to reach her and Cecil. We got talking, we laughed. And then I mentioned Dungeons and Dragons.
“Oh…” said Cecil.
“About that…” said Hazel.
“What?” I asked.
Cecil spoke up, “Cassidy forced Ramona to kill my character. I’m off the team.”
“We broke up, and she got petty.”
“That sucks!” I said, “You make everything structured and interesting. And you do that voice.”
He did a gravelly voice for his character, Robbie the dwarf. It sounded like an adolescent Danny DeVito.
Without Cecil, the whole team was insane, and I couldn’t handle that on my own. I didn’t want to go to the next meet. Neither did Hazel (or Caylyn, I’m assuming). Ramona couldn’t DM only one person, so the team was bound to break apart.
I needed to find a new DND guild fast.
“So Cecil knows you were just kidding right?’’ my mom asked.
We walked down and across the hashtagging lines that made up Hamilton’s streets. It was a pleasant walk before dusk arrived. After that, we headed home.