Monday, April 30, 2012

Overheard in Starbucks

The little girl with the tight brown curls was practically bouncing in anticipation.

"Mommy, is that mine?" she asked. 

She looked to be about my sister's age. 

"No, honey, that's a latte. It's not for you."

"I want a latte, too!"

The mother sent an indulgent smile the barista's way. 

"One kids' hot chocolate, please."

The barista, a young woman who could've been in high school or college, turned with a grin and started preparing the drink. 

"Hey, Mom?" the girl asked in a singsong voice. It seemed like if she stayed silent for too long she'd start vibrating with energy. 


"What do you want me to be when I get older?"

Her well-dressed mother thought. 

"You mean, for a job?"


"Well, honey, I want you to be what you want to be. I want you to do whatever makes you happy."

I failed to suppress a smile and hoped the mother didn't think I was some odd-ball eavesdropping on their conversation. The barista handed me my frappuccino and I was still smiling when I walked out the door. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Last Déjà Vu

I was trying so hard not to cry.

I pushed my hair back, covered my face, dug my feet into the gravel, did anything I could to hold back the tears. None of it worked.

"Son, it's okay," the man said to me. He was in late middle age, his skin tanned from years in the sun, the hair left on his head a horseshoe of light gray. He had kind eyes. "It's okay to be upset. I'd be upset, too. But I need you to calm down enough to tell me what happened."

I nodded and managed to bite back the tears for a moment. I'd never been so happy to see a police officer.

"Okay," I gulped. "Well..."

My weeping came fresh and joined the shaking that had never stopped. I took a deep breath, made an unsuccessful attempt to steady myself, and guided him through the story as best I could.

"I was trying to get him off of me. I was trying so hard..."

I didn't know why, but I deeply wanted him to understand this point.

"I fought him," I said. "As hard as I could. For a second he was off-balance and I tried to knock him over. I swear I almost did it. But when he figured out what I was going for he spun me around and slammed my head into the stairs."

It's a funny thing, being strangled.

In the movies there's always this epic struggle between the victim and the assailant, always a knife or a gun lying just out of reach that's grasped in the nick of time. They don't tell you how fast it is. They don't tell you how your limbs go numb and your brain goes dead and everything fades to black in just a few seconds. They make it out like there's a fight.

It's doesn't really go down that way.

I can't remember if I tried to push him away or not. I can't even remember his hands closing around my throat. I just remember there suddenly being no air, and that awful absence wiped away everything else so much more quickly than I would have imagined it could. So you'll forgive me if I'm a bit hazy. I'd like to think that my hands were around his, attempting vainly to pry his thick fingers from my soft neck, but I couldn't feel my arms or anything else. Other than the pain, of course. But even that's not as bad as you'd think. It was a lot like falling asleep.

And then he was gone.

I popped back with surprising speed once he'd been pulled away, regaining my sight and rising to my feet as two men struggled with my attacker on the other side of the room. When I turned, I saw the burning brown eyes of my own father smoldering back at me.

"You," I spat. "Are as much of a pussy now as you were when I was fifteen years old."

And that's what it felt like. It felt like being fifteen again.

"What did you just say?" he asked, his rage welling again.

"Pussy," I inflected with as much venom as I could muster. "Still hitting people who can't fight back. I hope you feel big."

"I do," he shot.

And then I laughed.

"It's easy to feel big when you outweigh the person you're wailing on by a hundred pounds," I smiled. "But it doesn't mean anything. You didn't accomplish anything. You know, there was a time when men had honor. When did you all turn into such little bitches?"

His face went scarlet.

"You'd better shut your fucking mouth," he growled.

I laughed again and pushed my face to his through the arms of the men separating us.

"I won't shut up," I said. "I'm not afraid of you. Do it again."

In retrospect I'm not sure how I held it together so well in that moment. It must have been the adrenaline. It kicks in when you're in extreme danger, right?

I think that had to be what was propelling me forward, because the moment I was in my car and away from the threat I imploded like an old building.

"Oh, my God," I gasped. "I can't believe that just happened. I can't..."

Every time I remembered being whipped around, feeling my head hit the floor, and suddenly realizing I couldn't breathe I wanted to fold in on myself. It was my father who had done this to me. My own parent, a man supposed to love and protect and teach me, had endangered my life. I pulled into a field outside of town and sobbed for twenty minutes.

He could have killed me, I realized. He could have killed me.

Then I got my cell phone out and did with shaking hands what I should have done ten years ago.

"This is the Mountain Town Police Department."


"Sir? Sir, are you okay?"

"Yeah...yeah, I'm fine."

"You don't sound fine."

"I...I need help."

And that's how I came to be sitting on a park bench with the police sergeant who was considerate enough to meet me where no one would see the tears or the red marks that had turned my white skin crimson. I've distrusted policemen my entire life but will always remember that kindness.

When the story was told in full he nodded his head.

"This is definitely assault and battery," he said.

"What's the statute of limitations?" I asked.

"For a Class-1 misdemeanor it would be one year," he said. "I'm not telling you to do anything, but if you want us to we'll prosecute."

"Not yet," I said. "I need time to leave."

Because I am. I'd made the decision anyway but knew that once my parents learned I'd spoken with the authorities I wouldn't have a choice. That's how Our Family works: you don't fight back and you never tell. But it's a secret I should have stopped keeping years ago.

I'm not white in this, if you're wondering, not in any way free from blame.

I made a joke during prayer.

The occasion was my birthday dinner and my mother was leading our family in a grace that none but she or my grandfather really cared about. The young people were all still a bit giggly once she'd finished and to break the tension I cracked, "Good thing we didn't thank God for whiskey. That wouldn't have gone over too well."

Blonde Cousin laughed but my mother turned to me with a sickly smile and did one of the foulest things I have ever seen one person do to another.

"You know, BB, maybe your Neurological Condition makes it difficult for you to understand basic things, but prayer really shouldn't be joked about. I think you need to work on your comprehension that way." Her smile grew wider as she divulged my health troubles to an entire room full of people who had been unaware of them. "Maybe now would be a good time to think about that."

Years of shame and anguish roared into my chest in a fraction of a second.

"Yeah?" I replied without missing a beat. "Well maybe now would be a good time to shut the fuck up."

That was all it took. And so help me, the look on her face in that moment was absolutely worth being mauled by a bear-sized man. Or what passes for a man, at any rate.

Black Dress Girl, to her immense credit, didn't bat an eye when I called her in a state of clear distress and asked if I could stay at her house for a night.

"Yeah, dude," she said. "Get over here. Popcorn and Game of Thrones. Let's do this."

So many of the people around me, both friends and family, have proven to be generous, amazing people over the course of the last few days. I know they will be there to support me as I step into the light.

And that step is coming soon.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


It seems that I am never whole
And will not ever be
The adventures of whole people
Aren't possible for me

I am composed of gaping wounds
And if one should be filled
Another opens long and deep
And dark and wet and chill

My body is a ragged cloth
A bank of jagged scars
Whose seams are ripped so vast and huge
That through them shine the stars

That light confers no healing touch
Nor comfort it conveys
But only gives a teasing glimpse
Of whole men's flawless rays

We filter them, we unwhole few
With tragedy replete
And by our chasmic emptiness
They see themselves complete

We are the shadows in the night
The fairytales gone wrong
The awful roar of sterile skies
The mourn in every song

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Been Four Years

Four years ago today I made my reluctant debut on Blogger and began an experience that was to become a treasured and valuable part of my life. April 7, 2008, was an auspicious time for me to start a public chronicle of my days; I was nineteen years old then, in the twilight of adolescence, and on the verge of changes that would deliver me from boyhood to young adulthood as a different person.

In the time since I started writing here I've come out as gay, graduated from college, been offered a record deal, appeared on American Idol, lived by myself in a major city, and chosen and pursued a new career path. It's been a busy stretch.

I'm hoping that the next year is just as busy. By the end of it I hope to have started my career, moved out of my parents' house, and struck out on my own in a new place. Those are my greatest aspirations, at least for now. Whether I accomplish them or not will be told on these digital pages.

So, for those of you who need reminding or for those of you who don't know, my name is BrightenedBoy, but you can call me BB. I am twenty-three years old and a recent college graduate of a major university in the American South, where I studied political science and journalism.

In the time since graduation I've taken an internship with Sentinel of the West Literary Agency and am currently searching for a temporary job in journalism to get me by until the hoped-for position with an agency.

Until that happens I live with my parents, David and Marie (not actual names) in their new home. They also reside in Southern State, along with two of my three siblings: Thomas (aged sixteen), and Pie (my sister, aged eight). My cousin, Beautiful Cousin (aged twenty-one), attends a university close to my parents' home and stays with us so she can commute. They are all in Mountain Town, a rural and isolated community remarkably cut-off from the extremely affluent area immediately to its east (the Goldlands).

Another brother, Powell (aged twenty-two) will enter the United States Marine Corps in a few weeks' time.

And now, a year in review:

April 2011: I turn twenty-three years old and, after the police crash my birthday party, begin an arduous and months-long effort to fight fraudulent charges of obstruction of justice

May 2011: I secure an internship with a literary agency in the City of Fate

June 2011: I move to the City of Fate and take up residence in a Nubia apartment. I also meet Jo(e) in person for the first time.

July 2011: I continue my internship and begin working in a movie theater on the Island.

August 2011: I return home to Southern State and begin my final semester at Major University

September 2011: I come down with a bout of pneumonia, which prematurely derails my last track season at Major University.

October 2011: Following an idyllic early friendship, conditions with roommate Patrick badly deteriorate. Our relationship will never recover.

November 2011: I spend Thanksgiving with my parents.

December 2011: I graduate from Major University and enjoy an epic final weekend on campus.

January 2012: I dive fully into my internship with Sentinel of the West Literary Agency.

February 2012: On February 17th I move with my family to a new house in Mountain Town.

March 2012: I am actively seeking out a job following my graduation.

It's been an eventful year. Hopefully the coming one is better.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Day of the Jobs

I'd walked into the establishment on a whim, not really out of any expectation of success.

"Dude, if you're just looking for some part-time hours, you should swing by there," Thomas's 17-year-old friend, Jewfro, told me. "They're looking for help."

I did not, to be sure, have any burning desire to work in a fast-food restaurant mere months after earning my college degree, but the ever-dwindling figures on my bank statements and the ever-climbing bills--from Sallie Mae, from AT&T, from my parents--swayed me. In I went.

"Can I have an application?" I asked the dark-skinned man behind the counter.

Greek Man looked up at me with squinted eyes.

"You wait five minute," he said.


"You--you wait five minute."

"Um, okay."

Nonplussed, I took a seat in the dining area until the manager summoned me with a gesture of his hand.

"You come here now."

I walked to the back office, where Greek Man surveyed me again.

"How old you?"


"You in high school?"

"No, I'm twenty-three."

"You graduate yet?"

"Yes. I'm twenty-three."

He stroked his chin.

"You work with food before?"


He must have appreciated my honesty, because his next words were, "You come Monday."

"For an interview?"

"No," he responded. "You work."

For the smallest instant I fought down the urge to say "I need more Lemon Pledge," but the moment passed and instead I just nodded my head and thanked him.

Without really meaning to, I'd found a part-time job.

Figuring it couldn't hurt to test my luck some more, I placed a call to a local newspaper with the intention of getting their regular business hours and calling back at a later time. Instead the answer from the newsroom came after one ring, on a Saturday no less.

"Hi..." I began, caught a little off-guard by the fact that someone was actually there. "My name is BrightenedBoy Our Family and I just graduated from Major University. I'm looking for journalism opportunities in the area. Is there anyone there I could speak to regarding that?"

"Talk about great timing!" the man on the other end exclaimed. "We just had a reporter quit. Let me give you our editor's name and you can get in touch with her."

Just like that.

With my resumé and writing samples sent off, all I can do is hope that this publication sees enough promise in my work to hire me. And I mean really hope; I'll do what I have to, but no one wants to be a dishwasher when they're nearing twenty-four.