Boys don't cry. Or so we're led to believe from the time we're young children. Our male role models don't generally come right out and say: "If you cry, you will be regarded as a fucking pansy and embarrass anyone who associates themselves with you." But it's part of that Unwritten Code of Societal Expectations. Like "You must get married and have children or you will be regarded as a failure at life." That kind of thing. But then again, neither I nor my sister have ever given a flying fuck about societal expectations.

The first time Laurie caught me crying, it was around two a.m., this past summer. She'd gotten up to go to the bathroom or something and I guess she heard me. She opened my bedroom door a little. I was lying with my back to the door; I was facing the window, looking out at the rain patterning the window in the orangey glow of the streetlight. Or, at least, at the general blur that it appeared as without my glasses.

"Andy?" She's the only one I let call me that.

"Go away, Laurie." I really didn't feel like talking to anyone. Laurie and I are kind of similar in the respect that we dislike crying in front of other people.

"What's wrong?" She lisped slightly because of the retainers she wears at night.

"Go away. You wouldn't understand." As I'm sure you can tell, I'm not a very open person. Besides, Laurie was two years younger than I was. When you're in high school, that can make a big difference.

She came over and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Not leaving until you tell me what's wrong."

"You're gonna be here all night, then." I could almost hear her smile in that way she has that on anyone else would be patronizing but on Laurie is just…Laurie.

"I don't mind." When I didn't say anything, she said "I know what it's like to hurt, you know." Laurie had had some emotional issues the past school year. Freshman year is always hard. She'd done the self-injury thing for awhile but stopped after I found out and talked to her about it. She talks to me more now instead of doing that. It pisses her off that it doesn't go both ways; I still don't talk that much about my problems.

I sighed and rolled over on my back. She started to hand me my glasses; I guess that's when she saw that I was crying, because she put them back and hugged me hard instead. "Oh, Andy…" Just the way she says that got me started again. "What's wrong?" she asked again.

I cleared my throat. "I know you're just trying to help. But I'm not ready to talk about this yet. Okay?"

"Does this have anything to do with Katie?" Katie was my girlfriend. First and only. Up until about three months before.

"Um…Indirectly, I guess." It did. Sort of. With why we broke up.

"Mm." She was quiet for awhile. I sensed that she wanted to say something more but was afraid of how I'd react.


"Do you…want me to stay?"

I stared at her for a second, then scooted over to the other side of the bed, smiling slightly.

She laid her glasses on the bedside table next to mine, then slid under the covers. She laid her head on my shoulder, reaching her hand up to brush the remaining tears off my cheeks.

"Thanks. Night, La- Holy shit, your feet are cold!"

"Which is why they're on yours. Goodnight, Andy."

I'm still not ready to talk about it. About why I defy the expectations society imposes upon me. But if I don't tell my story now, it will be up to Laurie to tell it for me, and she doesn't deserve the burden.