Ummm… Don't know what to say, really. Other than I was just struck by the idea that… never mind. I don't even know how to begin an explanation of my inspiration for this. So I'll let you read it, and tell me what you think, yes?—KG64

Ma looks at me for a long time, shaking her head. "What, Ma?" I ask, knowing what she's about to say.

"You… you can't be gay." The way she says it makes it seem as though she's convinced that if she believes it, that makes it true.

"I am." I'm tired of being someone I'm not. For all of them. I'm just the kid who does all his schoolwork, takes the extra hours when someone calls in sick, goes home and sits on his computer because pretending to be something I'm not for the rest of the day is too much as it is, why throw in an extracurricular I don't enjoy on top of that?

She continues shaking her head, slowly. And it all seems very surreal. Then my brother comes in and says, "What's with the long faces?" He looks at me. "You tell her you're gay or something?" It's a joke, since Ma is the first one I've told. But the way I stare back at him, evenly, expressionless, seems to clue him in. "Oh, fuck. Shit, man, I didn't—seriously?" It all comes out jumbled, but I catch his meaning.

I nod curtly. "Yes."

Ma stands. "No, Thomas, your brother is not gay."

I stand too. "Yes, Ma, I am. I'm not going to fucking pretend anymore just to keep you and Dad and Tom and who in hell knows else happy, when it's just making me miserable."

"Watch your language," she warns me.

I said fuck and hell. Tom said fuck and shit three seconds ago and she didn't reprimand him. I snort. Story of my life. "I'm going to bed."

I ignore her protests as I climb the stairs, then walk to my room where I fall back on my bed. It's not long before there's a light tapping on my door. "Can I come in?" Thomas says quietly.

"Whatever," I answer.

He comes in and stands awkwardly at the foot of my bed, looking everywhere but me. "Gay, huh?" he finally asks quietly.

"Yes, Tom," I say. "Did you have something to say or were you just trying to rub it in my face that I'm only the homosexual definition, not the happy definition?"

He shakes his head. "I didn't—Jamie, you know I always looked up to you."

I raise my eyebrows. He hasn't called me Jamie since he entered high school, four years ago, my sophomore year of college. "A changeling, then, is it?" I remark wryly. "They took Tommy away from me for four years, then when I come out of the closet, they replace this new Tom I've finally gotten used to with my real little brother?"

"Shut up," Tom mutters. But then he says, "I got to high school, and suddenly I realized… You weren't at all what I thought you were. The school didn't remember you, the teachers only remembered you because you never spoke and because you always did well on labs and papers. But they didn't remember you as a person."

Of course they don't. I'm forgettable. That's the way I like it. I like being able to blend in and slip through the cracks. Then Tom says, "It's because it wasn't really you sitting those classes, wasn't it, Jamie? I mean, it was you, physically, but the big brother I grew up with locked himself away. That's why I stopped calling you Jamie. Because I realized that… to the rest of the world… Jamie didn't exist. James was reality, and Jamie was a figment of my imagination."

"Make your point."

"My point is that… James is really the illusion, isn't he? James is the front you put up so no one would see the real you. And… Jamie was I the only one you ever let past that wall?"

I sigh. "Sort of." I guess he's right. He's the only one I feel I can trust with anything. And even with that, I didn't feel I could tell him I was gay.

"Why now, Jamie?" I look up at Tom. "Why now?" he asks again. "Why'd you choose to come out of the closet now?"

"Honestly?" I ask. "Because I don't give a fuck about anything anymore. I'm about ready to graduate college, but I can't bring myself to get excited about it. It has been probably seven years since I got really excited about something. It's been eight since I realized I'm gay. I'm just so exhausted, from putting on and taking off all these different identities designed to please whoever I'm with. And I really just don't care anymore. If she accepted me, great, I'd be able to be myself for the first time in nearly a decade. If not, well screw her. If she kicked me out, well that really kind of sucks, but too late now. And if she murdered me… so much the better. I wouldn't have to pretend like I give a shit anymore. Because I don't. None of it fucking matters."

Tom frowns at me and looks like he wants to say something supportive, but at the same time he wants to tease me about something, and as a result he just ends up looking awkward. Then he stands to leave the room. At the door, sounding even more awkward than he looks, he says, "I love you, Jamie, you know that, right?"

I nod, and he vanishes. And I do know my baby brother loves me.

I just don't fucking care.