I have returned with more of Eyes of Excruciation! I know I let this one go; waiting over a year to post my next Act was definitely not intentional. Still, I hope that this story sparks something special in even just one reader.
For those of us who love or have loved in secrecy out of fear.
I was wrong.
This is my first clear, maybe even ethereal realization of the day. It’s just me, sitting in my corner desk with my red Letterman around my waist, not even really thinking. Just staring off, tired, a little wishful, into space. Then my brain tells me to pay attention to what my eyes are taking in: there’s the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall in front of me, and on the white tag under “Test Approved:” is the name Eddie G. Garcia.
I kid you not.
And I’m not kidding myself, either.
It’s not ironic, but my mind has to be so sharp and assume that fate is playing a dirty fucking joke on me. Still, it feels wrong.
I look over at the Eddie of my reality, and I remember what Mr. Doas said this morning when he was calling role. He called out: “Eddie Garza?”
Eddie looked and raised his hand and said, “Here.”
It’s hard making a mistake, failing somebody else, letting them down. But to make an error to yourself, your mind, your heart, is the lowest depth of weakness and woe. I’m alone in that depth, wallowing in the darkness, unable to call out for help.
And it’s my choice.
I look at Eddie again, not unlike any other day, and lose track of Mr. Doas’s lecture on civil and criminal cases. Because I can only ask myself one thing, over and over again: ‘Would he help me? Would he make me feel better?’
No one else is even trying.
I sigh. I look away.
If it was anybody else I could care less whether I called them Garcia when their last name is Jackson. But not with Eddie.
I actually kinda smile as I sit here, reflecting. I feel…shy, and a little embarrassed that I got his last name wrong. It’s…it’s like the same feeling I had when I asked Krista out in the 8th grade at our pre-District swim meet. The time had been still, my races far-off concerns, and the roar of the cheering crowd a distant hum. There we were, side by side, sitting alone on the bleachers while the rest of our team talked in excited whispers about us. Probably about this kind of invisible spark between her and I, drawing us closer and closer until I got it at last. The courage to raise that one question, my first time. I called her name, look her in the eyes, and asked if she wanted to –
Then my cutesy feeling just dies right there. I look at Eddie again.
It is not the same. A desperate uncertainty of affection is all this is about.
God, Krista. I just left you. Eleven hours away, alone. But this girl, she never told me it wasn’t my fault, because my parents chose to move. Because she wanted me to forget about Krista, and love her instead.
I’ve said goodbye to the world I was in before, where boys like me blushed until our faces burned by just asking a girl out.
To be your girlfriend.
Your one and only.
Then you would hold hands, wave goodbye to her when the bus left, sneak her your only cookie at lunch, and just ensoul her world into yours.
That amounted to infinity.
And this, with Edwardo Garza. This amounts to…to…an unknown. An imaginary polar number, “i”. Limited to nothing at all.
Without a spark of any kind.
“The Supreme Court has always cracked down hard on hate crimes in our country.” Mr. Doas is bellowing again. “If you don’t particularly like your neighbor, for example. Maybe the two of you get into a fight, and you punch his eye out. You’re going to be up for a higher misdemeanor, and perhaps your neighbor is gonna sue you for all you’re worth.”
Half the class laughs.
“But,” Mr. Doas continues, crossing the room slowly, “if your neighbor is black, or homosexual, and the court knows that you attacked them deliberately just for that, then you’re looking at much harsher penalties. Extended jail time is plausible.”
He pauses to change slides.
Attacked them just for that…
“There was one incident in 1998: a Massachusetts college student by the name of Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten by two homophobes. Another case involved a homosexual man at a bar about ten years ago. This individual’s demeanor upset another man, who was straight, so he and his friends beat said individual into submission. Then they took him out of the bar, tied him to the back of the man’s truck, and began driving around the parking lot in circles.”
A couple of girls in the room gasp.
“Literally, they dragged the individual until he died. They murdered him.”
I cringe inside. Most of the faces I see are passive. The guys have stone-solid faces or just look bored. Eddie has his head down on his drawstring, but I can tell he’s awake.
Mr. Doas goes on about criminal trials, and the shock ebbs away. Then it’s there. The emotion, throbbing inside me, a gut-wrenching passion.
Eddie. Eddie. Eddie.
I want to jump out of my seat and scream it all out with this burning fire in my voice, or yell, or even say it softly.
When the bell rings, I take my time going to speech, but I don’t look back once in the hallway.
Because I already saw her walk past me, the girl with dirty blonde hair who has no idea who I am.
You see, Eddie has a girlfriend. They always meet at the junction of our L-shaped history building, talking and sometimes laughing a little when I pass them. This isn’t everyday.
I don’t know if I could handle it. Seeing the two of them leave through the south doors everyday together, side by side, holding hands. It reminds me that I am alone.
Yeah. Why wouldn’t he have a girlfriend?