Mask of Bravery

I wake up, shaken out of my dreams by the train's whistle. When I open my tired eyes, the sight that greets me is taken in with bewilderment until my brain fully wakens and I remember who I am and why I am riding this train.

I am Ramone, fifteen years old and hopelessly confused. I am riding this train because my mother, in a fit of crying and muttering angry nothings, shoved a ticket and a fifty dollar bill under my nose and told me to go.

Heart heavy with the weight of this memory, I grab my backpack full of clothes and my acoustic guitar in it's hard-shell case and join the other train passengers to file off into the station. With my guitar case in hand, I leave the station and walk aimlessly down the street. The people I pass stare at the me as though I were some freak juvenile delinquent.

But I am not.

I did nothing wrong.

If you would talk to anyone about me, you'd never hear that I was a bad kid. I did good in school; even liked it. My teachers though I was an angel, and I was, compared to the stupid dweebs they usually taught. My friends thought I was cool. We had fun together. Man, am I going to miss them.

I sit down on the ground, leaning back against the brick wall of an apartment building. To collect my thoughts, I close my eyes and breath deep, shaky breaths as tears come to my eyes.

I am not afraid to cry. I'm a big boy, I can face what I'm feeling.

Which is partially why I'm in this colossal mess in the first place.

You see, I'm a great kid. Good grades, good friends, good relationship with my parents. People thought I was okay, and they accepted me as I was. Even though I was gay.

My parents never knew this. I always got along with them, but I never fully understood why I felt I couldn't tell them. Now that I think back on it, I have no idea how they didn't guess. Really. Fifteen years old, never had a girlfriend, blow-dried and gelled hair, wore pink... how obvious were the clues? I wore tight pants, for God's sake. Yet they were oblivious.

Everyone else knew. It was just Mommy and Daddy who never clued in.

So why am I sitting, all alone, on the street of a far away city? I'll tell you.

A couple of my friends were gay, too. I had never dated any of my close friends, but us being so close, it was bound to happen sometime. In the past couple of weeks I had been getting really close to one, Jordan. It got to the point where I couldn't think of him without smiling and having my stomach clench in anxiety.

One night, I guess it was only two days ago, Jordan came to sleep over. My parents always liked Jordan. He was tall, with long brown curls falling into his face like a hurricane had attacked, leaving his hair devastated. He played on the school soccer team, and was an avid mountain biker.

My parents would never have suspected that Jordan was gay, so they weren't suspicious of him spending the night.

Anyway, things got wild in my basement. I won't bore you with the details, but I'll just say that Jordan and I lost something together that we'll never gain back. If you know what I mean.

Okay, we had sex. I'm trying to seem nonchalant and cool about it, but I can't. It was too amazing for callous behavior like that.

Afterwards, we lay together in my bed, the blanket pulled up over our stomachs, concealing each other so our imaginations would have to work a bit. My scrawny body was angled towards Jordan's muscular, tanned torso, his right arm draped over my waist. His other arm was underneath his head, supporting that exquisite head of hair. As he smiled at me, I basked in it; in the feeling of being beautiful.

Jordan slowly bent to cover my neck in sweet, rose petals of kisses. I loved that. He was at least twice my size, too, and I loved the feeling of being so small.

As Jordan slid his hands down my stomach, he whispered my name, over and over. I'll never forget how his words felt against my skin.

"Ramone. Ramone. Ramone..."

Just as I was preparing to gasp the three words I had dreamed of uttering to him for weeks, one sound sliced through our utopian paradise like a lightning bolt through gray sky.

The creak of my door opening.

Back on the street, in the present, I shiver at the mere memory of what had ensued.

My mother had screamed, fled upstairs, shouting to my father. I felt his fury from a whole story away.

I kissed Jordan one last time and ordered him to dress as quickly as he could. I scrambled into my own clothes and told him to climb out of my ground level window, to escape. With a morose look, sorrow in his cerulean blue eyes, he told me that he would never forget what we had just done, not ever. I swore I could feel my heart breaking, like a shattering pane of glass, as Jordan climbed out of my window and probably out of my life forever.

Stunned, and violently dreading the approaching moment when my father would come down here, armed with a reckless fist and poisonous words, suddenly I emitted a sob and dropped my head into my hands.

"You sicken me, you little faggot."

As I remember the venom that dripped from my father's words, I clench my fists so hard little blossoms of pain explode from the bruises he left on my thin arms. I glare contemptuously down at them, red hot hate burning in my chest.

My father had stormed out of my room, leaving me shaking on my bed and licking a cut he had left on the back of my hand. I cried. I know that's what brought tears to my mother's eyes, too. As much as she knew she hated me now, she still couldn't bear her little boy to feel such pain.

She cleared her throat, and I looked up. Mom almost faltered at the fear that must have been in my eyes. But she took a deep breath to cleanse herself of her well-deserved guilt and shamelessly handed me a train ticket to a far away city and fifty dollars before turning on her heels and leaving. She closed the door behind her.

The door's ominous creak once again seared deep down inside of me, smashing my already-broken heart.

I remember one more thing of that night.

Still sobbing, wiping tears from my face, I stood up and walked haltingly to my mirror. I forcefully swallowed back more tears and took in the reflection that stared back at me.

I couldn't believe that minutes before I had been being kissed by an amazing boy, about to tell him that I'd love him forever. Minutes before, I had felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world.

I raised my hand to touch my reddened, tear-streaked face. People used to tell me I was gorgeous. But the androgynous beauty of my wide green eyes, slender nose, and large lips, framed by long black hair, was completely lost to me. Choking back another despairing sob, I remember feeling like I was ugly.

Brushing away tears that had escaped my eyelashes, I return to the present situation. What am I going to do now? I'm all alone in this city, and it's getting dark. Where should I go? Where is there to go?

I don't know the answers to any of those questions. My only hope is that I'll survive the night, and that my courage doesn't fail, should I have need to call upon it tonight.

Without my mind's knowledge, my body makes up it's mind. I get up from the dirty sidewalk, grab my guitar in it's case, and stalk off into the early twilight.

I hope you can't see that I'm afraid, because this mask of bravery is the best I've got.