The sterility of the room was blinding. I could smell the white. White walls with windows adorned with white blinds. And then there was that medicinal reek. Pills and syrups and syringes all polluting the air with their stifling odor. The fiery abyss of Hell was looking mighty tempting. I had been so close to reaching it too.

My story is so generic really…to anyone who hears it. But to have lived it was an entirely different matter. I looked from face to face, most of them pale with half lidded eyes. Everyone here was sedated "for their own good."

I had been sentenced to Lankford Mental Institution for boys for counseling about my cutting issues as well as other problems. Thankfully none of the other patients really paid any attention to me. I was a drastic change compared to the room. Still in jeans and a loose fitting concert tee, I was a blemish amidst the painfully white interior. I wondered when I would be forced to wear the same dull color. Suddenly that familiar sensation of being watched washed over me. Or maybe it was just the "Paranoia" I had been diagnosed with. No. I caught the granite gaze of a boy a few years older then everyone else in the room eyeing me over. He was only a few yards away, sitting on one of the overstuffed couches. He, just like everyone else, was lounging in a white terry cloth robe. Pocket less so nothing could be hidden and sash-less for what I guessed was to prevent hangings.

Another smatter of white was tucked behind his ear. I realized it was a cigarette and the addict in me suddenly craved. Bastard wouldn't break eye contact so I was forced to keep staring. I wouldn't forfeit in a staring contest with some insane, cocky boy in a robe. When my eyes started to water, reminding me that I must blink, I did and regretted it at once, the older boy smiling and reaching for the cigarette. They had taken my own pack of cigarettes when I first came in. The small crevice in my pocket reserved for it and my lighter felt vacant.

Instead of enduring another pity smile from an approaching nurse I headed towards the boy on the couch instead. I sat down beside him, the couch sinking beneath my weight. "Got another one of those?" The cigarette hung limply from his lips, unlit. That reserved, cold stare returned.

"Think they let you smoke in here?" he cracked another sadistic smile and took the cig out of his mouth. "I'm crazy remember? Everyone here is. They just let me hold it…It's a comfort thing."

I glanced at the nicotine stains between his fingers. "Right...crazy. What's your name?"

The cigarette was nestled between his barely parted lips again. I thought I heard him inhale slightly, tugging at the sweet cancerous grain just beyond the filter. "New boy right? What are you in for?"

I had to remind myself that everyone here would be either rude or completely off the wall so I let it go that he ignored my question. "Yeah. I'm new. I don't really want to talk about why I'm here though..." The hardly week old memories came back with a searing vengeance. The boy studied me calmly, indifferent to my obvious discomfort. "Better get used to talking about it. It's easier that way. Or else the Doc will force it out of you. It's the only thing you really have left of yourself until you're released. The more messed up you are the more you have to hide." I could tell he reveled in my surprise.

"What do you mean force it out of me?"

He leaned his head back against the couch, his short choppy espresso bangs rising into the air like the hackles of a dog. "You'll see..." he took another phantom drag.

The familiar prick of eyes hit the back of my neck again. I followed the sensation to a young blonde nestled with his knees up to his chin in an armchair. If I hadn't noted the Adams apple and the apparent lack of breasts I would have assumed he was actually a she. The girlish boy gave a positively angelic smile, his cheeks coloring from a slight blush, perfectly aligned white teeth visible. He was charming to say the least, his eyes a misty bluish green much like the color of the sea in the Caribbean. He had a delicious olive skin tone, which was for all I could see, was perfectly unmarred. The blonde released his hug around his legs and stretched them out and yawned. His feline grace was intoxicating and I had to shut my mouth, which hung agape. I caught the tale end of what was probably a little scoff from the boy next to me.

"That's Keiji. Don't feel special. He flirts with everyone." The low rasp of his voice startled me. When I glanced back at Keiji he was already making eyes at some brunette that was talking to himself in a corner or rather talking to the corner. That was a low blow to the pride.

"You never answered me..." My voice sounded very frail as opposed to his.

'What?" He certainly enjoyed making people squirm beneath his half stare half glare.

"Your name. What is it?" I attempted to sound a little more defiant then what came out… "Oh…it's-"

"It's Kale." The sudden presence of Keiji made me jump. I hadn't even heard a footstep. Kale looked disdainfully at Keiji.

"And who might you be?" Keiji purred. He leaned over an arm of the couch and teetered back and forth towards me. I suppose he meant to flash me tidbits of his naked collarbone as well as little glimpses of the hardened terrain of his chest.

"Alex." Keiji leaned back; shoulder length locks tumbling backwards with him. "Well Alex has anyone ever told you what lovely eyes you have? They remind me of jasper. By the way, I'm Keiji!" I heard another critical snort come from Kale.

"Thanks, yours aren't half bad either."

That petal soft blush returned to his cheeks. "Oh you're a keeper. What's a charming boy like you doing in a dreary place like this?" Keiji fawned over his nails for a second, which were all in perfect symmetrical harmony in length.

"Nothing much. It's a mistake that I'm here."

Keiji gave a disapproving shake of the head and glanced at Kale. "He's closet crazy Kale."

Kale didn't respond only thumbed his cigarette. Keiji shrugged his shoulders and turned back towards me. "Well it was a pleasure Alex. Make sure you introduce yourself to the rest of the guys, their still arguing over who gets dibbs."

Before I could ask what the Hell he meant, Keiji sauntered back over to his armchair where the brunette he had been grinning at earlier waited. I stared, fascinated, as the brunette kneeled and obligingly accepted an affectionate scratch behind the ear from Keiji.

"Hey Kale, what did Keiji mean that the guys are arguing over dibbs?"

The cigarette was tucked back behind his ear by now. "Means you better watch out where that sweet little ass of yours ventures off alone. That guy over there, kneeling like a dog is Keiji's bitch, Jarrod. He was the new guy until you came. Everyone was disappointed with him though since he's not much to look at."

Another nurse came scuttling past, shooting both of us curt little smiles before bustling over to her office.

"Which room do you sleep in?" He never simply asked politely, everything was a demand.

I paused, trying to remember. I had to shake off my embarrassment as being referred to as having a sweet little ass."I think 7C.why?"

"That's next to mine...they keep them separated with glass walls and at night they drag curtains across them. Marcus is on your other side. You don't really have to worry about him though, he doesn't talk."

Kale motioned towards a black haired boy who was watching the news, seated on a nearby couch. He was stark white, the skin beneath his eyes saggy and slightly concave. His long, tapering fingers fumbled with the remote, touching each button gingerly.

"No one knows why Marcus is here."

I looked back at Kale. "And how about you? Why are you here?"

For the first time Kale's seemingly impenetrable façade faltered. "Just normal shit. Cutting, depression and lashing out at my family." He answered so quickly I could hardly make out what he said. Whatever progress I had been making towards a friendship had just been obliterated it seemed.

"And Keiji?" I was quick to change the subject.

I was pleasantly surprised by the low laughter Kale let loose, turning to smile at him quizzically. "Keiji's really a freak. When he first came here he was about fifty pounds lighter then what he is now. He refused to eat and wore tons of make-up. The thing about Keiji is he's the biggest whore here. He once had a key to a storage closet and had some of the guys pay with laxatives for a free ride. His parents are really loaded but were embarrassed because their son was beyond confused about his gender. Besides gaining back weight he hasn't really changed. Still looks like a girl. The nurses love him though. Rumor is that he screws that one." Kale pointed to a particularly younger nurse whose bicep's were larger than my body. One of the few male nurses here. He was all muscle and man, his body putting steel to shame.

"Holy shit! That guy's huge though, how does Keiji survive?" Kale grinned again. I began to feel victorious each time I could rouse that much out of him.

"Who says Keiji's on bottom?"

I stared at him, slightly appalled since I had only recently come to terms with my own fetishes with the same sex. I accept the deplorable reality that I had enjoyed entering that damned prep whore house Abercrombie for the soft core male porn on the walls. And that, so long ago, at a drunken party, I readily volunteered to melt away my friends' happy trail with Nair. But not out loud yet. I'd never said that word. The thought was positively frightening. "You mean..?" He nodded and I couldn't help but laugh.

The gnawing silence returned soon enough though, drowning out any feeble attempt I made to resuscitate the conversation. Kale's solemn manner intrigued me though. I began watching him observe other people in the room. Everyone had some small quirk unique to them. From a boy that ran the water fountain constantly, ogling the thin jet of fluid, to another young man who was pacing incessantly. I began to wonder how I appeared to the rest of them, trying to figure out what it was that I was doing that appeared strange. But I found nothing. While Lankford was interesting to say the least I wanted to get the Hell out. I didn't belong here. It was brimming with transsexuals and obsessive compulsives. That just wasn't me. I had made a few mistakes in my life, yes, but I wasn't in league with these people. They were crazy.

It didn't seem that Kale was either though. Hardly another fig in the fruit basket like the rest. If anything I'd imagine Kale to be a cigarette. Sometimes I amaze myself with these inane thoughts.

In fact his story, the little he told seemed to be spawned off of mine. I silently wished he would suddenly break out, in depth, about his history instead of sitting there, twittling with his ratty cigarette. I heaved a defeated sigh and glanced out the barred window. It was nearly dusk and the boldly emblazoned signs that hung virtually everywhere all read "Bed- 8:00" I anticipated sleep for the first time in a long while. I watched the broad-chested male nurse that guarded the exit and suppressed another small grin as his eyes constantly darted over towards Keiji. I could see the jealousy flaring up in his eyes as Keiji snuggled in towards Jarrod, who, in truth, was rather homely.

Jarrod had greasy short brown hair and placid gray eyes. His face was spotted with multitudes of scars from what appeared to be acne. He stared listlessly ahead of himself, ignorant to Keiji's constant nit picking. His mouth hung slack, occasionally muttering something nonsensical to himself. Keiji seeming all the more the perfect little Grecian god above him with his hairless face and lean, ferine figure.

One of the nurses that had escorted me into the living room earlier briskly entered the room, a flustered look on her face. "8:00 gentlemen, please head back towards your rooms." The woman clutched a clipboard to her abdomen tightly, her knuckles whitening from the pressure. "No fuss tonight." She crooned over a few mutters and groans. "Oh hush, hush now. Tish. Off to bed Gentlemen." Marcus didn't budge from his spot in front of the TV.

I watched as the woman leaned over towards Keiji's supposed lover and whisper something discreetly to him. The man nodded and began towards Marcus who still didn't stir. The man reached down and gathered Marcus into his arms who hung as limply as a wet noodle. The man had to cradle his head to keep it from swaying as he carried him to his room. The image startled me but when I turned to speak to Kale I realized he had already left. The familiar loneliness that had been threatening the whole evening struck. I was stuck here with a group of disgruntled fags. To think I was condemned to the same title as they were! The urge to beg that same nurse to release me rose and subsided just as quickly when she started towards me. "Young man..." She glanced at her clipboard. "Alexi, bedtime. Hurry along now." My real name. I cringed but obeyed, too tired to protest.

As I trudged down a bleak corridor that branched off into various rooms I couldn't help but think of Rina, my sister. She was all I had left and suddenly it felt like we would never see each other again. I swallowed back against the tightening in my throat. Tears threatened. Rina and I had always been very close and it hurt her more than me that I was sent here. All I desired now though was sleep. It was the answer to absolutely everything. Pity it only resolved your problems for a few hours. A nearly scratched off 7C glared at me. The door was cool steel, painted over with white.

My room.

I pushed the door open, tossed my clothes onto the floor and collapsed on the squeaky spring mattress. The room smelled reminiscent of Pin Sol. I didn't have to wait long until the tension drained from my body and I was finally able to relax into a calming doze. I would explain and fix things tomorrow. I would call Rina tomorrow…I would go home tomorrow.