Disclaimer: I don't own the SUV, Green Day or their song "American Idiot", or Billie Joe Armstrong. Title credit to two Green Day songs: American Idiot and Nice Guys Finish Last.
Author's Note: Surprise! I came up with another new idea. This is a challenge for me: I don't normally use a guy's perspective, I know absolutely nothing about wrestling, and is my first attempt at a M/M piece. Like always, reviews, as are the reviewers, are loved. :)
"Come on, Matt!" my coach roared. "Break out of it!"
How exactly he expected me to that, I had no idea. When my opponent, Jason Brady, slammed me to the mat, the wind was knocked out of me. I could scarcely even breathe, let alone free myself from the hold of the best guy on the team.
The others found this amusing and came over to watch. Of course, they egged Brady on. I was the little queer nobody liked. While he wasn't even in my weight class, a good twenty-thirty pounds heavier, Brady was the only one who would wrestle me, eager for another person to crush into oblivion.
And he did every time.
My shoulders were pinned against the mat, Brady's bulk anchoring them down. My face was burning and sweat was pouring down it into my eyes. It burned—and I couldn't wipe it out because my arms were locked in Brady's iron grip.
"Break out of it, Matt!" the coach repeated. He was circling like a vulture, shouting like mad. "You can't go down your first try. You'll never get to semifinals."
"Not like he's gonna anyway," I heard Dan Parker sneer. "Look at him. Brady's not even trying."
I twisted my gaze upward to see Brady grinning confidently. In complete honesty, he wasn't trying half as much as he did when he wrestled somebody good. Infuriated by the arrogant smirk, the laughter, and the coach screaming, I began twisting and writhing as hard as I could.
Not what you're supposed to do, but I wanted to get Brady off me and prove my worth. That I could face Brady and not be beaten to a pulp. This was my first year on the team and I was determined to prove I wasn't a weakling. Brady laughed at my efforts, completely released hold of my arms and stood on my back, pressing my face further into the floor with his foot.
"Come on, Riley," he taunted, "get up. Fight me like a real man would." His foot came down harder.
I pushed myself up but immediately went back down.
I was growing increasingly frustrated. Brady was being much too hard on me, when the coach had warned him to "take it easy". And now cracks were being made against my sexuality. Bastards. If I could, I'd beat the shit out of them. But I couldn't. I was the smallest and weakest guy on the team. I wasn't even treated like a member of the team. Usually at meets, I wouldn't even get to fight; someone else from my team would get all of mine and, of course, win them. I struggled harder, but no luck. The laughing grew worse.
My chest was being crushed. My lungs screamed for air. Launched into a panic, I had to do what I ordinarily never would. I had to give up. Death before defeat was my coach's favorite saying. He drilled it into my teammates' heads. I, however, preferred life.
"Coach," I grunted, "I can't."
The coach was disgusted. He let Brady, his pet, stand on me for a few more seconds, before finally saying, "Okay, Jason. Get off him."
Brady obligingly removed his foot. Finally I managed to stand. ("Look who's off the mat, guys!" jeered Brady). "Yeah." I gave a few weak, fake laughs. "That's funny." I hated Brady—and yet at the same time, had had a crush on him for the last couple years.
I sighed ruefully and held out my hand in congratulations. I didn't willingly congratulate my rival—but I was trying to come off as a good sport. Good sportsmanship was everything, right?
Maybe they'd be so impressed they'd look past my pathetic efforts.
He ignored my hand and faced the coach as if I wasn't even there. "When can I get some real competition, Coach?" he asked. "Wrestling the fag—I mean Riley—is making me worse. How am I supposed to practice if he doesn't even do anything?"
I hung my head in shame. I was trying. Honestly I was. I just wasn't getting any better. No matter how much the coach hounded me, it was unlikely that I was going to get better. Wrestling wasn't my sport. My father made me join the team to "man up". I hated every minute of it. But I wanted to make him proud of me. Maybe come close to my brother Nick's legacy.
He won State Finals. Scratch that. I would start off with a simple goal: win a fight. That was realistic—and possibly doable. Possibly.
"Good work today, men," the coach said to the team, excluding me. Sure I got enough criticism, but was never able to partake in the praise. "Okay, go hit the showers." Talking happily among themselves, they filed out of the wrestling room towards the locker-room.
Expecting the worst, I went to run after them. "Riley!" my coach barked. I cringed at the tone of his voice and came to a stop.
"I didn't let you onto my team because you were talented, Riley." That much I knew. He and my father were old college buddies and he felt obligated to help his pal with his problem child.
No way was my father raising a fag.
"There were lots of good, talented men I had to turn away so you could join the team. Because of my decision, the team has been suffering for it."
I dropped my gaze. "Yes, Coach," I answered miserably.
"I don't want to go back on my word to Jim, but unless you shape up, Riley, I'm kicking you off the team and replacing you with someone more worthy. Is that clear?"
"Crystal," I mumbled sullenly. The coach was always so hard on me. Maybe he expected me to be the next Nick Riley and didn't get why I wasn't; maybe he thought a little "tough love" would chase the "gayness" out of me.
"Now go get changed." I loved how he didn't tell me to shower. Probably assumed I'd…well, go crazy. Naked in a room full of guys. None of them were really even that cute.
Maybe a few of them. Oh, who was I fooling? All of them were, in different ways. Nevertheless, it was hard to develop crushes on people who hated you for being who you were. There was a difference between a crush and thinking someone was attractive. Still it was nice being around a bunch of half-naked guys though, and certainly not curing my gay "disease".
Coming out to my family was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. My mother and my older sister, Chelsea, were relieved and very supportive. Nick said he knew it all along, but I could tell I had lost favor in his eyes. And my father absolutely hated me for it.
After my father and older brother took it so "well", I was scared to think how everyone at school might take it. I went out with girls, however wrong it may have felt. People made some cruel and accurate guesses. Pretty soon everyone knew. Then I just pretended to be blissfully unaware of such talk. But my 'girlfriend' Abby was getting suspicious. I dressed better than she did.
I slunk from the wrestling room, feeling very much like a kicked puppy. After the day I was having, I just wanted to curl up in a corner and die. I hated my life and I hated myself.
Nobody said anything to me when I entered the locker room; I probably wouldn't have had it any other way. All this abuse was making me agoraphobic. I got a few scornful looks, but conversation about future hook-ups, parties, and sports resumed.
The conversation came to a halt when I screamed. I had walked smack into a wall, only to realize the wall wasn't a wall at all. Brady was standing there topless, looking down at me with an annoyed expression. "Watch where you're going," he snapped.
He knocked past me and headed back towards his locker. Damn he looked good without a shirt and dripping wet. I couldn't help it when my eyes trailed after him. Body of a Greek god, right there. My own personal Adonis.
Then I remembered. I was supposed to be straight. I pounded my head against the nearest locker.
"I'm straight," I told myself, falling into rhythm with each hit. "I'm straight." Thunk. "I'm straight." Thunk.
Everyone was staring at me. I turned even redder than I had when I walked into Brady. Only mildly embarrassing and my head hurt like hell. "I'm leaving now." I slung my bag over my shoulder and shuffled dejectedly out of the locker room.
A couple of guys rat-tailed me with their towels as I went. They had a lot of opportunities to perfect the technique.
"Good, the queer's leaving," I heard Sebastian Michaels say. "Quick! Put something in front of the door so he can't get back in. I mean, seriously, did you see Riley checking Brady out?"
Brady laughed mockingly. "If he wasn't so puny, I'd be worried he'd try and rape me." He hadn't bothered to put his shirt on; a towel was slung over his broad shoulders and his blond hair was still dripping. Hot, but I hated the guy.
I stopped at the door. I was almost safe. If I could just keep from turning around…I couldn't. "I have a girlfriend," I said quietly, sending them all into a fit of laughter. Nobody bought it. Abby didn't even buy it much any more.
"And I have an invisible friend," Chase Jackson countered. "Hell, he's probably more real than your girlfriend is." He wadded up his wet towel and threw it at me. "Get outta here, you little homo. Nobody likes you." I didn't have a chance to duck so the grimy rag hit me right in the face.
More towels were thrown at me, some with impressive force, and a torrent of hateful comments.
"Fly away, little fairy."
"Go home, homo."
How clever. They were using alliterations today.
I slammed the door behind me. Not a moment too soon. Tears were welling in my eyes. Not so much because I had been insulted in almost every way possible, but more out of frustration, anger, and helplessness. I punched the nearest wall. My knuckles were torn open and began to bleed steadily. Some splattered on my uniform. Fuck it. I didn't even deserve to wear it. I brought my hand to my mouth and sucked up the blood.
I scarcely noticed my throbbing hand; there was too much emotional damage to focus on. I had been reduced to nothing, felt like nothing, especially not a human being.
But it wasn't just the wrestlers who got on my case—though they were among the crueler. Last year, the football players had come after me and stuffed me in a locker. I had guys pretend to hit on me, only to laugh in my face, should I actually be sucked into it. I was the one people loved to hate.
Why'd people hate me anyway? I considered myself a pretty likable guy. Or I used to be. Now I was half the person I had been, closing in on myself. There was only so much abuse I could take.
It wasn't like it was an abnormality at Central Valley to be gay. There were a number of known fellow gays running around. Glenn Adams, for example, was one of the most popular guys in school. And, of course, there was Glenn's good friend Kyle Thompson. Nobody knew for sure whether or not Kyle was a guy or a girl. He/she too was ridiculously popular.
Sure seemed as if they had it just fine here. Millions of friends. Why did I get such a hard time? Downright unfair, if you asked me.
I fucking hated high school and begged my parents to home school me or let me take computer classes. All throughout freshman year, when the truth was revealed at last. They, namely my father, who got the final say, remained obtuse. Most likely I would be begging them through college.
If I chose to stay alive for that long. I wasn't proud of it, but I had tried to kill myself. Just twice.
As I proved daily with wrestling practice I had almost no tolerance of pain.
Possibly the two I owed my worthless life to were my best friends: Delilah Simpson, and Amber Connor. Originally Chelsea's friends, but over time they adopted me. Both were a year or two older than I was, so they sort of became like my older sisters. Except for my primary family, Del and Amber were the only ones who knew I was gay. (Or rather, I had told I was gay).
They didn't fit in with the cookie cutter mold required for Central Valley either. It was kind of like us against the school.
I headed out the exit and, after fishing my sneakers out of my bag, began a long walk home. Before I was completely home free, I had one final obstacle to pass: a crowd of popular kids, namely guys, hanging out outside of school. Some of them were members of the my wrestling 'team'. Like I hadn't been humiliated enough today.
A few of the guys gave a couple mocking wolf whistles when I trudged past. I was still in my uniform—unable to get a chance to take it off. I keep my gaze on the concrete in front of me and plodded slowly on. It was useless to do anything about it—they'd just get a bigger laugh.
Luckily, a fight broke out in the parking lot, and they all ran to see who was involved. Wolves, the whole lot of them. Literally. Thrived on violence and tearing others to pieces.
If there was any question in your mind about the brutality of the human nature, just look at what they did to me.
The walk home was agonizing. The sun beat down mercilessly on my head. My uniform, which wasn't the most comfortable thing to begin with, now clung to my body like skin. If I didn't look gay before, I definitely did now, walking—or more accurately waddling—down the street in a suffocating, brightly colored spandex uniform. Judging by the amount of pressure being applied to my groin, I wasn't sure how much longer I'd last.
Several students drove by, without as much as a passing glance. Others saw me, smirked and probably talked about and laughed at me as they drove on.
"Pull over," I heard a girl's voice say. "He looks like he needs a ride."
I kept walking. It wasn't very likely she was talking about me. But, please, please let her be talking about me. My balls were getting twisted and it hurt like a bitch.
"Baby, shut up. He'll see us." I could recognize Brady's drawl anywhere. His car had been creeping at a whole 25 miles an hour out of the parking lot and was coming up behind me.
"Jason, I said stop. Now!"
Brady slammed on his breaks and jerked the wheel to one side. He nearly rode up on the curb; I jumped back to avoid being flattened. Not likely my puny body would stand up to an SUV.
The girl paused to smooth her hair. Then she faced Brady angrily. "I said 'stop', not 'run him over'."
"I…did…stop," Brady snarled through gritted teeth. "And completely killed my brakes."
She didn't much seem to care and spoke across him to me. "You need a ride?" she asked. I was stunned, unable to believe that Jessica Sanders was actually speaking to me. One of the more popular girls at school. Most everyone at Central Valley played some sport. Popularity, therefore, was mostly measured by ability. Jessica was one of the better cheerleaders for the wrestling team.
Of course, her boyfriend had tried to run me over, so I was a little hesitant about accepting the invitation. It was no secret that Brady and I weren't friends. But he was the conceited one; he was the jackass. If not for his attitude I would have no problem with him. Maybe it was better that way. Otherwise, I would probably be obsessed with him.
"No thanks," I mumbled and began walking again.
Brady switched gears. "Okay," he said, sounding relieved, "let's go,"
She shot him a warning look, daring him to step on the gas pedal. It was kind of refreshing to see Brady cowed into submission by his girlfriend. He normally acted like he owned the world.
"Jason," Jessica reproached, "why are you being such a jerk? He's on your wrestling team."
"And?" Brady asked, wondering if he was supposed to pretend he cared. "He's the team's benchwarmer. He doesn't even do anything."
"Really, I'm fine," I insisted. I had enough of Brady at practice. Trying to beg a ride off him would be disgraceful. It took all I had to even congratulate him on a victory.
"You heard the queer—guy. Can we go…?" Brady began to ask.
Jessica had already undone her seatbelt and swung open her door. "You're absolutely unbelievable!" she snapped. "I'll just walk home with him." A popular that cared. That was rare.
Both of us were kind of in disbelief. She was nice and all, but I was so going to feel this at practice tomorrow.
At least Brady could accept a rare moment of defeat. "Jess, quit over-reacting. Riley, get in the car."
"Was that so hard?" Jessica asked as I slid the door open and slipped inside. "Honestly, you're so dramatic."
"Talk and I'll kill you," Brady warned me. He was letting me ride in his car, but by no means being civil. No one had better find out just how whipped he was.
"My god, Jason, shut up…" He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. "As a matter of fact, I don't want to hear you talk for the rest of the ride. Listen to your music…or something." He shut up.
I cringed. I could feel the bruises already.
The ride started off awkward, to say the least. I sat quietly in the back seat. Except for Green Day playing, it was quiet.
I kind of appreciated Brady's taste in music. Billie Joe Armstrong was hot.
"So, Matt, is it? This your first year on the team?" Jessica asked.
"Yeah," I said softly, for fear of facing Brady's wrath. It was one thing to be riding in his car, but it was quite another to be talking to his girlfriend, I was sure.
Jessica wasn't going to give up that easily; she kept trying to get a conversation out of me, since Brady was forbidden to speak. I wasn't very accustomed to making small talk with people, so I kept providing one word answers, usually "yes" or "no".
But she was so sweet and friendly, it seemed, that I began to loosen up. Soon we were actively bantering with each other and I was making her laugh. For the first time in a long time, I began to feel like a person. (I wondered what she saw in Brady. He was sitting sullenly, shooting me an occasional death glare in the rear-view mirror).
"You're absolutely adorable!" Jessica exclaimed. "You should so have lunch with us tomorrow."
That coaxed a reaction. "What!?" Brady shouted. He dropped all of his weight onto the brake and the car lurched to a stop. In spite of our seatbelts, we all flew forward. I crashed into the back of his seat.
Jessica peeled some hair out of her lip gloss. "Can you stop doing that?" she asked testily. "Look what you did to Matt." I peeled my face off his seat. He did worse to me at wrestling.
Brady glanced backwards. "Fuck Riley," he seethed. I involuntarily got a deer-in-headlights look. Brady, the object of my secret affections for years, had just used my name and "fuck" in the same sentence. Brady turned a slight shade of red.
Awkward…beyond awkward…Not even Jessica could get us out of this one.
(Green Day blared in the background. "Don't wanna be an American Idiot"…)
"This is…this is my street," I said, flushed with embarrassment. "You can drop me off here." There were still three blocks to go before I got to my house. I just needed to get away from Brady.
Not the best driver, I gathered, Brady instantly pulled over and came very close to creaming someone's car. (Jessica made another crack about his lack of driving abilities). "Get out, Riley. Now." Normally whatever he had to say was accompanied by "now" or "I'll beat the shit out of you if you don't".
So damn aggressive—hot—and arrogant.
I snatched up my bag and stumbled out of the car. Though it seemed the polite thing to do, I couldn't thank Brady for the ride. I wouldn't even be able to look at him without turning red.
"See you at lunch tomorrow," Jessica said with a big smile, again speaking as if Brady wasn't there. I felt a little reassured. Sure I had a powerful enemy, but there was a more powerful ally in my corner. As stereotypical and probably as awful as it sounded, maybe girls and gays were meant to form an alliance.
She hit Brady's arm again. "Don't be rude. Say good-bye." Brady had been leaning back in his chair, eyes closed, as if praying for patience. I was beginning to get the feeling that Jessica was going to force us to be friends whether we liked it or not.
Brady half-raised his hand in acknowledgment and shifted gears. "Can we go to the party now?" he asked. "Before I waste any more gas on lower classmen you might try and adopt."
Jessica faced him. "Why are you so jealous?" she asked. Add that to the list of things working against Brady. The more I got to know him the longer it got. "There's nothing wrong with being friendly."
"Why him, though?" Brady asked in protest. Neither seemed to remember I was there. "He freaks me out. He's always staring at me."
"That's exactly why," Jessica snapped.
"You like him 'cause he's obsessed with me?" Brady asked disbelievingly.
"You're horrible to the kid," she interrupted. "He's a nice guy, Jace, and he needs a friend, if even one. Switch sides with me. I want to get to Kim's party alive."
Figuring I had over-stayed my welcome, I started off down the street. Didn't need to get involved in a lover's spat. But they were one of the weirder couples I had seen. I had yet to notice any true affection between them.
No, I decided. They were in love with each other. It was wishful thinking that they couldn't stand each other. Then there was the possibility of Brady being single. Up for grabs. Wow. That really was wishful thinking. Maybe he had broken through my crush-attraction wall, but that by no means meant he had similar feelings.
Like all seniors, except for a very limited handful, Brady found me to be utterly useless and in the way. In addition, he found me to be weak, apparently creepy and stalker-ish, and absolutely hated my guts.
But then, I was sure a lot of people hated his. He was really awful. Arrogant. Disrespectful. Prejudice. Jealous, as his own girlfriend had said. Still, I couldn't pretend his little opinion of me didn't hurt. It did. It hurt the most.
But that was life.
You never ended up with the girl/guy you wanted and had to settle for second best.
If you could get someone at all…
Nice guys, according to Green Day, always did finish last.
In the world where we lived today, gay guys sometimes didn't finish at all.