WARNING: This story is entirely fictional. Any names or events that are mentioned in this story are not real. All relationships to real life people and events is purely coincidence.


Felt good. The wind, anyhow. Ryan liked the way it felt up this high, above everybody and everything else, with not a care in the world and showing civilization that he just didn't give a fuck anymore. He didn't know there was so much wind in Indianapolis, but he guessed that once you were on the roof of a building, you could really feel the full force of the gale. The cool blast of air was like the sensation that you got after hastily opening a freezer—a refreshing anodyne, a painkiller that spread goosebumps all over Ryan's Tucson-cooked skin. In Arizona, no matter what time of year it was, he was always surrounded with heat and dust. But it was nice here, just like Everett had said in his regaling tales of life in Indiana. Guess he knew why Everett's mother had taken him here to grow up.

Ryan couldn't help but to think as he stood stagnantly on the ledge of the upper surface, his skinny and knobby toes curling around the concrete sill, sort of how a bat would grip its resting place. The way the wind felt was just like slicing through the air on the field, dashing from one thirty-yard line to the other in four measures or something. Ryan didn't really know how the measures thing went—at his Tucson high school, he was predominantly color guard with some mediocre clarinet playing during concert season. Everett and Brandon were incredible at it, though. They were pretty modest about crowing about their musical prowess, but Ryan thought they were both terrific. The best players. Without a doubt.

But what made Ryan's blood alight on fiery thrill wasn't that. There was just something about dashing, jumping, tossing rifles, every eyelash twitch perfectly in time with the music the rata-tat-tat-tat evenness of the drumline and the melodious cry of the brass. Color guard came so naturally to Ryan. Even coupled with the heaviness of the equipment and the unbridled body motions, every twitch and gesture was achieved elegantly by him. If there was one thing that Ryan was proud of himself for, it was being born with the tendency to be flexible. Which was why color guard was a precise fit. But weirdly enough, dedicating his whole visage to a marching band—much less a drum corps, all-male notwithstanding—had been probably his last choice.

He didn't want to join gymnastics because he knew everybody would snicker at him in a leotard and say they would expect—stereotypically—a guy like him to dress like that.

He didn't want to join ballet for a corresponding reason, only this phobia had to do with how he'd be ridiculed in slippers.

He didn't want to join track because he knew the guys on the team wouldn't want to shower with him.

Boys don't shower with faggots.

So why had the allure of his high school's marching band drawn him in so intensely, the bona fide moth to the flame? Was it because despite the fact that he was gay, the members of the band had welcomed him with open arms? Was it because even though he didn't exactly have a waiting list written up of people who wanted to hang out with him, his social calendar wasn't always empty—and at least people in the band didn't cringe when he started talking? Was it because the boys in the band knew that Ryan wasn't the type of gay that salivated over men openly, and that they didn't care because everyone looked androgynous in marching uniforms anyway?

Probably. Probably so.

When his band instructor told him he was extremely deft in color guard and encouraged him to try out for the elite Cavaliers drum corps, Ryan had scoffed at first. He's definitely messing with me, Ryan had steamed quietly to himself on the way home. He just wants me out of his band and on tour with the Cavaliers so I don't get gay germs everywhere. And plus, I'll bet the fucker thinks I wouldn't want to be in any drum corps other than an exclusively all-male one.

But when Ryan arrived at Texas for auditions, he was shocked to find out that the directors did not inquire about his sexual preference. They were much more concerned about Ryan's marching and pliability and skill with flag twirling than whether he liked boys or girls. And when he was selected, Ryan couldn't help being ecstatic, almost hysterical with joy. He was sixteen, a junior in high school, and he was going to be a member of one of the most masterly drum corps in the United States. Sure, he was gay, but the Cavaliers had a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, like the Army. Ryan was cool with that. He actually cared more that nobody would question his sexual orientation. He was glad that he would be within a cluster of strangers acting as brothers that didn't know him personally. When he became friends with Brandon and Everett and Ryan found the valor to come out to them, they were astoundingly neutral. Everett reassured him that sexual preference didn't matter and that personality was much more important. Brandon had boldly agreed before taking a swig of his secret stash of whiskey, as he usually did.

So why?

Why was he doing this?

Ryan blamed Shane. A millennium could pass after Ryan's momentous decision, and he would still come to hold Shane responsible for the final conclusion. Shane had flirted with him; Ryan cast his morals aside when the other Cavaliers' heads were turned and Shane kissed the nape of his neck or slipped his fingers underneath the flimsy fabric of his t-shirt. Ryan had been so taken with Shane that when Shane lured him into a bathroom, he let the euphonium player have all of him. And when Shane deserted him, exposed him as the "homosexual fraud" that he claimed Ryan had always been, the other Cavaliers had spurned him like he was some sort of leper. According to them, Ryan had betrayed the policy of keeping sexuality out of the corps, therefore condemning him to a painful summer marching within the fraternity. Everett had been angry; he'd gone after Shane, threatening to "beat the dickhead to a fucking bloody pulp," and Brandon had sweetly offered to spike Shane's waterbottle with some leftover whiskey so they could duct-tape him to a wall once he passed out. Ryan could barely keep them from macerating the guy.

Ryan knew he had to take this matter into his own hands.

He just pretended the overhand beneath him was the field.

And he pretended he was just moving. Doing what he did best.

Living free of thought. Free of Shane. Free of his suffering.

Free. Instead of falling.