It was too dark for me to see my Nemesis. All I could see was those fiery red eyes. My knees buckled and I collapsed on the floor. My sobs reverberated in the corridors. And then I heard the voice I knew too well. “I thought you were a rock star, Alec”. 

I woke up with my heart pounding in its cage. In a futile attempt to control my heart-beat, I clenched my chest only to realize my shirt was soaking wet. Bollocks! It dawned on me it was Frankie, my childhood friend, in my dreams… as my ‘anxiety’.

Loneliness never walks alone. Anxiety attacks were back along with the nightmares.

***

Dreading to face everyone, I avoided going to school for a week. After running short of excuses to stay home, I relented to my mom’s nagging. So I was back to my school: the place I once loved was now my living nightmare.

I used to be ‘the poster boy of the school’- ace student, guitarist, star-footballer. Everyone wanted to be my friend. Girls always surrounded me and I enjoyed the attention. Though, I never felt attracted to anyone.

Things changed the moment I saw Codie, a new student in our class. As it was destined to be, soon we became lab-partners. We shared jokes along with the microscope. What I felt for Codie was inexplicable. It started with a casual touch of hands while passing the slides. He used to make notes for me, whenever I missed school.

That fateful day, Codie and I were doing an essay on Shakespeare, in the library. Our discussion moved to Shakespeare’s sexuality.

“This guy was definitely a bisexual. His sonnets addressed to ‘the fair youth’ prove that.” I argued.

“C’mon. He was a writer; it doesn’t prove anything.” Giving a dismissive wave of a hand, Codie said.

The librarian glared at us for the nth time, but we chose to ignore it.

“Dude, you are forgetting those sonnets were private. What do you say about ‘the second-best bed’ that he left for his wife?” I questioned.

“What second-best bed?” Knitting his brows, he asked.

“He left it to his wife in his will. That proves that he didn’t love her or probably didn’t love her as much as he loved someone else.” I said.

“I don’t know what it meant. Umm…” He paused to reflect and then continued, “For sure, the master of words would not use such words in vain. There is no way to establish if he was straight, gay or bi. And how does it matter? His sexuality was just one part of him, it’s not the only thing that defined him. All I can say is that neither he nor his wife deserved the second-best bed.” Codie was right, it didn’t matter, however, his opinion did. Of late, I had started questioning my sexuality. I needed to test the waters before taking the leap.

We had been loud in our discussion. Having warned us several times, the librarian finally showed us the door. We stuffed the books in our bags and ran out of the library. Laughing in the corridors, we made our way to the washroom. I closed the door and in the spur of the moment, I kissed Codie. His soft lips moved in reciprocation. The tender kiss made me realize that I had not been imagining things. God, he felt the same.

At that moment, Frankie walked in and caught us in the act.

The walls started closing in, I needed air. So, I barged out of the washroom without looking back. I hid in the parking lot, till everyone was gone. All the while feeling terrible for betraying Codie by walking out. I went back to put my stuff in my locker. I found a hate note – ‘Gays are no Rock-stars, faggot’.

***

Frankie’s voice brought me back to the moment. “Dude. What’s up?”

“You coming to assembly?” Not knowing what to say, I asked.

“You don’t need me, your girlfriend will be there” Frankie teased me with a wink and walked off.

Initially, I was surprised by Frankie’s sudden attitude change. Then, last week I had all the time in the world to evaluate. He was always extremely competitive. For years, he strived to be ‘the numero uno’. Now was his chance to malign me. I guess, his jealousy got the better of him. I accepted that I didn’t have any choice but to get used to such comments for now.

With a sigh, I opened the locker. The coldness of the locker matched the air. I picked the lab-coat. A note fell out; it read ‘leave the school, you filthy faggot’. From rock star to faggot, I had come a long way. Looking around, I found a boys’ gang snickering at me. The gang which used to be mine. But a week ago, I lost everything my friends, my reputation and … perhaps Codie.

Due to the over-expectations of my parents, I suffered from GAD at an early age. The only way to keep the anxiety at bay was to excel at everything. I had set the standards for myself and worked hard to prove myself. Could I let it all slip away for Codie? Could we fight it? We? Was there really a ‘we’? I had thousands of questions. But at 15, I didn’t have an answer to any of them.

I walked to the assembly.

It wasn’t hard to spot Codie in the crowd- the tall boy with blue eyes.

‘Hey Codie!’ I waved. He acknowledged my wave with a weak smile.

At first, I lumbered but as the distance between us shortened, I paced. Seeing him, one of my questions was answered. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Slipping my fingers between his, I whispered, “No one deserves the second-best bed”.

His fingers moved between mine and lips curved in a smile.

 

Author’s note:

By ‘the second-best bed’, the author wants to show, sometimes people live their lives with the second-best choice, even if it doesn’t make them as happy as the first choice would have.

Reference:

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespearewill.html

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexuality_of_William_Shakespeare

Glossary: 

GAD- General Anxiety Disorder. “The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.”- source- https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

***

This is an entry for UniK-4, a 1000-word writing event at ArtoonsInn.

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