Chapter Three


No comment on what happened today in school. It was some crazy shit, that's all that I'll say.

I got home that afternoon and had snack. I'm pretty chill with all of the other residents, but today I didn't really talk to any of them. Okay, in reality, I hated all of them and thought they were all a bunch of fake losers except for maybe one. And yeah, to be honest, I got a little lost in my thoughts about Nasser. After snack we had room time for a while. I didn't have a roommate to talk to, so I just sat there doing nothing for the time being. I guess I fell asleep because, next thing I knew, there was someone was knocking on the door frame saying, "Time for group, Max."

"Okay," I muttered. I rolled out of bed. We all lined up in the hallway and went upstairs.

"Hi, everyone," said Amy, one of the clinicians. She's the extremely cheerful one. "How are you doing today?"

"Good," I said. And I really was doing well. School was good; Nasser was… well, damn, I shouldn't say what I thought or you would think I was really losing it. Anyway, other people muttered their responses. This was why I hated them! They were not invested in their treatment, they did not care about others, and they were general assholes. Then again, I was a heroin addict who had relapsed several times.

"I'm glad to hear it," she replied. Maybe it was just me, but I heard some sarcasm. "Today we're going to talk about healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships. And then we're going to make a book."

Scott, the other clinician, the straight-forward one, began to give the instructions. "So jot down some words or sketch some pictures that come to mind when someone mentions healthy and unhealthy relationships. Here are some papers, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, and other materials in the center of the room."

I took a marker and a piece of paper and began to think. Healthy: respect, trust, love, care, communication, mutual effort, honesty. Respect was the foundation of all relationships, whether or not they were romantic. Trust was the basis of communication. You can't talk to someone about your deep dark secrets if you don't trust them. Love and care: love and care one has to have in order to have a healthy relationship. That doesn't mean that one has to love their partner from the minute they lay eyes on them, but at least liking, caring, and being willing to love. Although, I fell in love at first sight. Wait, what? Never mind. Pretend I didn't just say that. Communication, I think, is pretty obvious. Mutual effort, meaning that both people in the relationship call the other and equally plan dates and talk, is also important. Honesty goes without saying: if you cheat on your partner, then it's not a healthy relationship. Unhealthy: hate, disrespect, mistrust, miscommunication, dishonesty, excessive fighting, cheating, blame, lying. All of that was pretty much self-explanatory. They were mostly the opposite of a healthy relationship's characteristics. I drew a little picture to go along with it, too. It consisted of a couple of stick figures with a heart above them. A few minutes passed, and more people finished.

"Is everyone ready to share?" asked Amy. We all nodded (albeit dully). "Who wants to share first?"

Nobody volunteered right away, so I raised my hand. "I'll go."

"Okay, go ahead."

"Okay. So, for healthy, I put respect, trust, love, care, communication, mutual effort, and honesty."

"Good. Do you want to elaborate on any of those?"

"Well, if you don't have any of those, then you have an unhealthy relationship. If you do have all of those, then you have a healthy relationship." I also told them the tidbits that I had planned in my head. Except, of course, for the part about falling in love—wait, I told you to pretend I didn't say that. Never mind.

"What if you have all of them except for one?"

"If you're working towards getting all of those, then you can have a healthy relationship. Especially if it is love. Because most of the times you don't start a relationship with someone loving that person, but you grow to love that person." Unless that person was Nasser, and it was love at first sight. Shit. Did I just think that for real? Again?

"Good. What about unhealthy relationships, Max?"

"Unhealthy would be hate, disrespect, mistrust, miscommunication, dishonesty, excessive fighting, cheating, blame, and lying."

She said some more things; I said some more things; and everyone else (reluctantly) shared their own pieces. Group was decent, but all I could think about was Nasser. Did I… like him, like him?


All I could think about was Max. He was so cute—so cute! I walked home, changed into 'straight boy' clothes, and decided to take the night off from working. Nobody would miss me there. Instead, I decided, I would actually do some homework. I started with Advanced Placement United States History. And yes, I did have homework over the summer and on the first day of school. The only reason I didn't do it during lunch is because I didn't have my textbook on me. (Do you know how heavy that shit is?) I took notes on the sixth chapter of the textbook.

My parents got home around six o'clock. We all ate dinner together. I usually cooked a full meal, but tonight I just put leftovers in the microwave. I hoped that they wouldn't mind.

"How was your first day of school, Nasser?" my mother asked. She gave a soft smile.

"It went well, Mother," I said politely. "Thank you. How was work?"

"It was fine."

I turned to my father timidly. "How was your day at work?"

He grunted something unintelligible, or at least I couldn't understand it.


I ended up sneaking out around ten thirty at night. I felt lonely and kind of bored. Chuck and I started to chat.

"How are you feeling, Nasser? Better?"

"Yes." I had put foundation over the scrape on my forehead to cover it just in case somebody noticed. Most people who use prostitutes are too drunk to see the whore's face, but there's always that one outlier, the one who wants a pretty boy. We talked about school, politics, and school some more.

"What colleges are you interested in?"

"I don't know. Somewhere liberating." I shrugged. Someone tapped my ass then.

"Hey, cutie," he said when I turned in my stool. "Want to take a ride?"

"Yes, okay." I got up. "See you later," I said to Chuck. I followed the guy to the bathroom. "Pay first," I requested of him.

He dished out the money. "What's your name?" he asked.

Wow. This was getting kind of weird. "Nasser."

"Nasser." It sounded stupid coming out of his mouth compared to Max's. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No." I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I obviously didn't have a boyfriend if I was coming here to whore myself out. "Um, can we get going?"

"Yeah, are you in a hurry or something?" he teased.

I shrugged. I pulled out a condom, tore it open, and rolled it onto him. I undressed my lower half and hovered over the toilet.

We fucked. The bathroom, as I've mentioned, was disgusting.


Stockholm syndrome: "condition of hostage sympathizing with captors" (Webster's New Pocket Dictionary). I guess that's what I had, except I wasn't exactly captured, per se. I bet you're like, 'What?' It will be explained later.

I slept through most of the morning. Of course, I had nightmares. Then, I looked in the newspaper for an advertisement for an apartment or a small house. I had enough money saved up to rent a decent-sized house… not that I was going to. In any case, I found a nice two-bedroom apartment near downtown. I was actually looking for a one bedroom apartment, but then I realized that I could bring my kids here if they shared a bedroom. The listing said that the realtor would be at the apartment from three to five.

Around four o'clock pm, I went to go check it out. I hadn't realized that right in the middle of the time frame was when many people went to look as well. The realtor was busy with another visitor, so I took a flyer and looked around the apartment by myself. It was nice, to say the least. I understood why it cost a couple thousand dollars to rent each month.

The realtor finally found some time to meet with me. "Hello, my name is Jenny."

'Jenny Craig?' I thought to myself. Well, she was skinny enough to be her. "Hi, I'm Ben. I have a few questions about this place."

"Go right ahead. Ask away."

"First, I wanted to know if there is a washer and dryer in this building." I would need a washer and dryer. I doubted that Lesley would give me our washer and dryer.

"There is. It's in the basement, the first door on the left."

"Second, I wanted to know if I'm allowed to have kids here." And yes, I know this sounded like a stupid question, but there are apartment buildings that won't let you have kids if you're renting. They're there for adults only or something. I don't understand it either.

"Yes, kids are allowed here. Are you looking at this place with a significant other, or are you a single father?"

…I do believe she was asking me if I was available for dating. "Single father."

"And how old are your kids?"

"Four and eleven."

"All right. Well, there are many teenagers in the building, so it won't be hard for you to find a baby-sitter."

"Perfect." So I guess she wasn't looking for a date. But in any case, I could go out and 'play' with that boy I saw at the club at night. "So, I think that this is the place that I want."

"Have you looked elsewhere yet?"

"No, but I looked in the newspaper and this looked like the only good one."

"Well, if you are certain," she said, as if she was doing me a huge favor. "I just have some papers for you to sign, and the place will be yours for however long you can pay. You're the first one to make an offer."

…That sounded really morbid to me. "Okay, thank you."

"Here's my number if you need anything." Yeah, so I guess she did want me after all.

A/N: Thanks for continued support, guys. And girls.