My Boyfriend Makes Me Feel Inadequate
It was dinner time. Rain ran down the glass doors that opened up to the deck and back yard. The pulled pork his mother had worked at was steaming out of the porcelain bowl, laid beside asparagus and potatoes. Tyler sat, close-mouthed, while she served him. He stared out the window occasionally, or watched the movement of her hands.
When the plate was in front of him he began to eat. He ate purposefully, almost aggressively. He tuned out the conversation his parents were having. His father's troubles at work.
"Geoff, I know he ain't a bad guy, but Christ, there's nothing between those two ears of his."
"Is that so?"
"It's the sad truth. And just yesterday he says to me, where do I file this damage report? I ask him, if you don't know, where have you been putting them all these years? He says he was getting Bernadette to file them for him! Now she's on maternity, so he comes to me. What kind of man can't even do all of his own job, gets someone else to do it for him, for years and years? No man at all, that's what I think, eh Tyler?"
At his name, Tyler looked up. Silence stretched.
"I said, eh Tyler?"
He just kept watching his father, wordlessly. His mother fidgeted. "He must not have been listening. Don't mind him, dear."
"Son," said Tyler's father warningly, "were you listening or not?"
Tyler said nothing. Their eyes didn't break contact.
"Tyler, when I'm saying something, I expect to be listened to. And if you aren't listening, the least you can do is apologize, and quit staring at me like some god-damned fish!"
Abruptly Tyler stood up, his chair squealing against the wood floor. He walked purposefully, aggressively, out of the room and up the stairs.
"Tyler!" his father yelled. His mother poked around on her plate awkwardly.
"Don't mind him. He's going through things. Young man things. He'll probably apologize in the morning."
"I was a young man, and I never did something like that to my father…"
In his room, Tyler sat by the window. He looked out over the rainsoaked street, the channels of water chasing down the storm-drain. He looked out on the dreary and grey horizon, and wished he were somewhere else. His hands clenched and unclenched their grip on his jeans.
. . .
The bell rang out the end of Biology. Tyler smiled grimly to himself, getting smoothly out of his chair and walking towards the place where he knew his friends would be. The halls were full of damp-smelling teenagers, squeaky sneakers leaving brown marks on the floor.
When he saw his friends, seated in a circle close to one of the exits, he stomach dropped a little. If he'd had somewhere else to go, he probably would have gone there instead. He sat down noiselessly, trying to deflect attention away from himself, and took out a brown bag from his pack, picking the smushed sandwich out for contemplation and eventual consumption.
He was annoyed. Why do they always have to talk about the stupidest things? He wasn't listening enough to know what they were talking about, but even the idea sent a knife through his nerves. He shifted his position on the cold concrete floor.
Suddenly they were all laughing about something. It set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. He was furious. I should get out of here. I'm going to do something stupid.
He put his sandwich back into the paper bag, and that bag back into his back pack. He stood up, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. He was already thinking about where he could go.
"Where you going Tyler?"
"Yeah, you just sat down!"
"Got a lady-friend we should know about?"
"No!" Tyler said, rounding on them. "No, no, no, you idiots. I can't stand to just sit here and listen to you spew your idiot garbage out any more!" He took a breath. "If you want me I'll be anywhere but fucking here!"
He turned around again and started walking. He didn't want to see their faces, hear what they had to say. He didn't want to know if he'd hurt anyone's feelings or, worse, none at all. Luckily, it was only a second before he was around the corner and out of sight, and he hadn't heard anything.
His breath was heavy and he felt sweaty, in spite of the damp chill in the halls. His heart was thumping. He drew his brows together in grief. Something stupid.
He ended up sitting by the generator, under the overhang, eating his sandwich and staring at the uniform grey of the bottom of the clouds.
Craig caught up to him after school. He was walking home: he wanted to tell Craig no, go away, but he couldn't. He was thinking about how much had gone between them in the past week, and no, it couldn't be done. At first Craig said nothing; they didn't even look at each other. Then at last he grunted, a confused, frustrated noise, and asked, "Why did you do it?"
"I don't know," Tyler said, the pitch of his voice rising. He looked at the ground, dodged puddles, held his umbrella up.
After a second, he cleared his throat. "Do you want to know something funny? I didn't even know what they were talking about. I wasn't listening."
Craig was silent. Tyler took it to mean disapproval. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't know why I do what I do."
He did look.
"Don't take this wrong, but they all kind of hate your guts now."
Tyler looked away, chewing his cheek, before turning back:
Craig didn't meet his eyes. "I don't understand you at all, Tyler, but… I can't just peace out. We're friends."
"Yeah…" Tyler said. He was starting to get choked up. He looked away again. "Thanks," he croaked out.
He was having an internal struggle, trying not to cry in front of Craig. It was titanic.
"So, I don't know what you're thinking but, I guess we could eat lunch together away from them."
Tyler took the effort to look back to his friend. Craig must have seen what was on his face, because he immediately looked more serious. Craig… Tyler started to actually look at Craig. How long had they known each other? Without ever really looking? Or maybe Craig had been paying more attention all those years; if he hadn't been watching to see, how would Tyler know, one way or another?
"Yeah," he said again, at last. "Yeah."
When they parted ways, Tyler was nearly at his front step. The house was dry and fragrant, and made him glad. This is all I want, really, he thought. A warm beautiful house. That's all I am asking for.
And when he dropped his back pack on the ground and flopped onto his bed, he curled in on himself. He groaned and writhed, and bit off the world. He cried, just a little bit.
Because who was there to live in that house? Where were his parents – where were they really? And where was Kieran? Was he gone forever? Was there no one who could fill his place? Was Tyler staked down to a lonely life forever, to fade away and out of the minds of the people who once knew him?
He spent hours lying in bed in agony, accompanied by the sound of rain falling. He only stopped, got up, distracted himself, when he heard his dad coming home; it was the sound of another battle.
A/N: I have news. So, all in the same week, I found out I got a new job and a new place. So my time has been spent working (more than full time… 44 hours this week) and packing and cleaning. So I apologize for all the wonderful reviews I haven't had time to respond to – you all mean a lot to me and I am really grateful that you show your support – and for the incredible amount of time it took me to write this chapter.
A new chapter of my own life is being posted, so to speak. For the year I've done all my writing on FP, I've been living on Income Assistance (Welfare). It paid enough for my rent; I got my food from the food bank. Everything else I did without, essentially, including phone, internet, food I like, anything. I also had a lot of time to fill, and this is how I filled it. I tried to make things like FP take as much time as possible because I didn't have anything else to do. Well, now that things are changing, my ability to participate will be a reduced.
So perhaps it is fitting that I write about so many lonely people… but now I have roommates, and I live in a busy and exciting part of town, and I have coworkers and cool things going on. I'm not going to abandon FP, but I'm still sorting out where it fits into my life, and I may end up contributing a lot less. Keep in mind I've written over 180,000 words here this past year, and even more in reviews and PMs.
I think this story will be more than twelve chapters now, but probably no more than fifteen. I have to give the characters enough space to exist. And since you all have been enjoying this poetry so much, here's another poem, called "A Glimpse" by Walt Whitman:
A glimpse through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark'd seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.