where the bad kids go
I woke up from a dreamless sleep. As I sat up, I was pulled backward with a heaviness attached to my shoulders. I lay back down and stared at the ceiling for minutes. Hours. All throughout the day. When night came, I paced around the house. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. With these thoughts swarming inside my head.
All of this time allowed me to think. Think in the bed. Think on the couch. Think in the shower. I thought of how my life had turned out. How I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be someone. But I was a nobody, lost in the sea of faces that this stupid world holds. I never amounted to anything and wasted time trying. Wasted time, that’s all my life had ever been. I looked in the mirror and I saw a loser. A loser who didn’t have any friends. A loser who’d never had a relationship because his anxiety cockblocked him. I looked at my ugly face, and the ugly bags beneath my ugly eyes.
I hated what I saw. I hated myself.
I wasn’t in the mood to pack. To move around. So I folded the blinds and drew the curtains, all throughout the house. I lay in bed and took shelter beneath the covers, away from the world.
Away from the light.
Three days had passed. I wondered where they dumped my dad’s ashes. I hope in the fucking ditch off I-35. He was scum. I can’t believe he ran off without me. Bastard. Perfect for my mother, that bitch. I hated her. My stomach dropped when I realized that I was the son of a psychotic woman. A schizo. A joke. That’s what she was. Nobody wants to be with this. They’ll leave me when they find out that I could just snap one day. Especially Marco. He doesn’t love me, even though I think he does. I’m fooling myself. I’m a fool. Nobody likes fools. I’ll always be alone.
I should kill myself.
I sat up at the thought. It was mine.
It was right though, I should kill myself. Just like my mother did. She deserved it, that whore. I deserved it, too. I’m not good enough. I wasn’t even good enough to be in a nice, Christian family. They kicked me out because they hated me, just like everyone else. Not even my foster family wanted me. An unwanted child, how embarrassing.
You’re an embarrassment, I had told myself in the mirror. And then I walked into the hallway bathroom and said it to the smashed mirror so an entire group of me could say it to myself.
Three more days had passed, and one night I bought four bottles of whiskey. Mother would be proud. Bitch. I could see why she loved the stuff, nice and sweet. It helped me sleep. It made my thoughts go away. It made the house seem better. Happier. So I drank more. I drank until I threw up, and then I drank some more. I looked at my drunken reflection in the master bathroom. My eyes had sunken in and my face morphed into something evil. It laughed at me with a wide smile and elongated teeth. It laughed even though I didn’t, and it echoed through my head. I smashed my fist into the glass.
The contractor made a courtesy call to remind me of our appointment. I told him to fuck off. I didn’t want anyone else touching this house. This was my house.
A knock at the front door made me hiss.
Marco stood on the front porch. He was dressed in street clothes this time, a shirt and jeans. His hair relaxed atop his head and it shivered in the summer breeze. I peeked behind the door and squinted in the afternoon light.
“Long time, no see,” he said with a smile.
“What are you doing here?” I asked dryly.
“I’m just checking on ya. I haven’t heard from you in a bit.” Marco looked down at my injured hand poorly wrapped in a pillow case. I snuck it behind my back. “Are you hurt?”
“I cut myself while doing some repairs. I’m fine.”
“You look pretty pale,” he replied, then smirked. “You get queasy around blood?”
“I said I’m fine.”
My sharp tone caught him off guard, but he cautiously shook it off. “Anyway, I was hoping I’d catch you at a good time. I just wanted to check up on you. I know it’s been a shitty month considering what’s happened, so I’d love to help out with anything you need. I’m sure you’re pretty stressed out. I mean, and no offense, you look terrible.”
“I think I can do this on my own,” I said coldly.
“It would be a good way to catch up, too. I can only imagine what you’ve been up to all these years.”
Are you fucking deaf?
“Please, let me help with something. Really, I’m more than happy to.” He gently pushed the door open and managed to get his right foot into the doorway.
I shoved the door forward and hissed through the crack, “Get away!”
Marco stumbled back a step and stared at me, into my eyes. The eyes of someone absent. He shook his head. “You’re drunk. I can smell it.”
“So what if I am.”
“After everything you went through with your mother?”
My lips curled inward and my tongue squirmed between my teeth as I tried to bite it. “You don’t know anything.”
“I do, Jesse. I read the whole thing when I heard that you were coming in to clean this place up.” He paused as if waiting for a response, but neither of us expected one. “Why didn’t you say anything? How could you let that happen without telling me?”
“What would a dumb kid like yourself know what to do then?” I asked.
“We could’ve ended this a lot sooner than it did. Now look at you. You’ve been stuck in this house by yourself for two weeks cleaning up the crap that your mom left behind. All of this trauma, these memories, and nobody to talk to while you pack it all away. Drinking sure as hell won’t help, especially when you’re alone.”
I didn’t say anything. He hesitated.
“It’s been sixteen years,” he continued. “Sixteen years since one of my best friends left. And not just a friend, Jesse. Don’t think I’ve forgotten. You were someone I really enjoyed being around as a kid. There’s so much to catch up on. To get to know each other again.”
I ground my teeth behind closed lips as I looked at him. “My mom and dad are dead. I have a house that I’ve been trying to clean and get ready to sell. I have so much shit to sort through, contractors to meet with, realtors and maintenance, and all you’re worried about is ‘catching up?’” I opened the door wider and stepped onto the porch. Marco took a step back. “What else did you want to do, rent a motel room and screw through the night? That’s how you like it, by keeping it a secret, huh? As you have for the past sixteen years.”
I could actually hear Marco’s thoughts as they absorbed into mine, How did you know?
“It doesn’t make a difference,” I continued. “In the end, you’re still a faggot.”
We stood on the front porch in silence.
Marco nodded, defeated. He struggled for his words as he backed down the steps. “I understand. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten involved.”
He walked briskly down the walkway and hopped into his car. As he drove off, he looked back at me one more time. The house creaked as I stood in the doorway and allowed outside air to flow inside. My heavy shoulders tugged me back into the house. Back where I belonged.
Marco was stung by the word, and it sizzled with his skin in the summer sun. It was said with such hate, in a voice that didn’t sound like Jesse’s. He’d never seen that side of Jesse before, as a kid or during the brief amount of time that they had seen each other since he’d returned to his hometown.
So what if he hadn’t come out to any of his friends or family? Did he really have to keep his sexuality a secret? Don’t ask, don’t tell, right? It was different when the two were kids, and it was different now that they were adults, too.
As he walked back to his car, Marco could feel a dense weight lift off of his shoulders that started to accumulate as he walked up to the front door when he had first arrived. He wasn’t sure where this feeling had come from and had thought it was just nerves, until Jesse snapped in his face.
The first time Marco had ever been in the house was when they were both eight, just about to turn nine. They’d known each other for almost two years now, and Marco had been invited over since he’d ask so many times before. Jesse introduced him to Helen, who sat at the kitchen table with a bottle of wine, and just the bottle. Jesse had thought that today was a better day for her if that’s all she’d been drinking.
So, you’re the boy Jesse always talks about, she’d said, unimpressed.
She stared at the both of them with such enmity the entire time that Marco’s presence had intruded her space. They spent the afternoon and evening inside of Jesse’s bedroom under the rule that they leave the door open. Every once in a while, Marco snuck a glance down the hall and noticed Helen staring at him in the same manner. She looked at him with such malice, like he was going to take Jesse away. Like he was going to save him from her.
Marco wasn’t allowed inside of the house again after that day.
It was when they walked through the house for the first time shortly after Jesse’s return that Marco had felt that same hateful look coming from unseen eyes. He couldn’t shake off the idea that there was someone else in the house, watching them from another room or from within the shadows.
Something had grabbed a hold of Jesse between the days that they had seen each other, and Marco could see it in his eyes. His vacant eyes, typically a bright blue, had become devoid of a soul and fell into a gloomy gray. Then as he tried to step into the house, he saw a monster guarding the entrance. It was a flash, but he saw It. He saw the dilated pupils engulf the entire iris. The lack of dental hygiene on teeth that almost seemed to morph into fangs. The smell of something sweet and sinister that slipped past the tongue, a concoction that fed a beast. An energy radiated from Jesse’s skin, and it reeked of hate and hopelessness.
He almost blamed it on the alcohol. He almost blamed it on the death of Jesse’s mother and father. He almost blamed it on the stress of cleaning up after an abusive alcoholic. He almost blamed Jesse for his behavior, for being stubborn and refusing to seek help when he needed it.
As Marco climbed into the driver seat and coasted away from the house, he turned back to look at Jesse one more time just in case it was the last. Then he saw the darkness spilling out from the front door. It almost looked as if a black mass sat atop Jesse’s back, and just as he was about to lose sight of him, Marco watched It wrap over his shoulders and pull him back into the house.