Chapter 13

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.




I was just sitting in my room when he burst in.  I’d been trying to do my homework, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t concentrate. Between losing Kyle and what happened to Kelly.  Plus, I knew what was coming.  It wouldn’t be long before Kelly got his memory back and he remembered.  I was hoping that he’d not remember that I’d already come out to him when I came out to him again and that when I did, he’d take it better. Given the seeming rage he was in when he burst into my room, I’d say he wasn’t going to take it any better.


Kelly just stood there after I dropped my bombshell on him again.  We’d already had this conversation, but obviously he still didn’t remember.  He kept looking at the picture and then at me, as though he was fighting some internal battle.  He looked like he wanted to say something several times but nothing came out.  He finally looked ready to say something when Mom interrupted us.


“Kelly, Todd?” Mom asked knocking on my door.  “Everything ok?”


Kelly whipped around to look at her.  He had the picture in his hand, seemingly ready to thrust it toward her.


“Everything’s fine Mom,” I answered before Kelly said or did anything.  “Jer and I had played a joke on Kelly and he finally figured .it out.”  I hated lying to her, but I wasn’t ready to come out to her, and I wasn’t about to let my older brother do it for me.


“Todd,” Mom reprimanded me.  “You shouldn’t be doing that, not while Kelly’s still recovering.”


“I’m sorry,” I said. “It won’t happen again.”


“Just see that it doesn’t young man.”  And with that, she left us alone.  I got up and went to the door with every intention of shutting it.


Kelly finally found his voice. “Kyle was your what?”  His voice was still a little loud.  I didn’t want to have this conversation with him in the house. Not where Mom could hear us.  I pulled the door open the rest of the way and motioned to Kelly to leave. He looked at me but didn’t move.


“Not here, not now,” I replied in a low voice.  It was bad enough that I was going to have this conversation with him again, but I’d be damned if he controlled the situation any further.  “Outside, where we can be alone.”


Kelly gave me a questioning look but headed toward the door anyway.  I followed him and shut my door behind me.  We made it downstairs without running into Mom and went outside.  I headed into the backyard, to the old swing set and sandbox that we had.


I sat down on one of the swings.  It had been years since I’d actually used the set.  I don’t know why Dad kept it around.  Maybe he was hoping that he’d have some grandkids he could push on the swings and watch make sandcastles in the sandbox. I stared at my feet, not daring to look at Kelly.


“Ok, we’re alone.  Happy?” Kelly leaned against one of the support poles.  “What’s this about Kyle being your boyfriend?”


I moved the swing a bit using my feet.  The back and forth motion was somewhat comforting. It brought me back to a time when I was younger, when I didn’t have a care in the world, unlike these days. “Yeah, Kyle Usher is my boyfriend.  Or I should say was, until the night of the accident.” I chanced a look at Kel.  He had this look on his face that was hard to pinpoint. It could have been horror, it could have been shock, or maybe outright disgust. I couldn’t tell.  My stomach became full of butterflies and I felt like I did the day of the accident.  That was the last time I’d had this conversation with my big brother.


“But how, how could you date a guy?” Kelly finally asked, his voice more quiet. “It’s just not right.”


“How can you date a girl?” I shot back.


“But that’s normal.”


I snorted. “Who are you to decide what’s normal for me?  Dating girls is normal for you, dating guys is normal for me.”


Kelly gestured with his hands as he spoke. “But it goes against nature.”


I shot up out of the seat.  We were starting down the same path again. “Goes against nature?  If it went against nature then I’d be dating girls.” I moved over closer to him.  He pulled back a bit. “Mother Nature wouldn’t have decided that I’m gay. If it went against nature then other animals on this planet wouldn’t be gay.  Did you know that there is a zoo that has a pair of gay penguins? That’s right, two male penguins that only show interest in each other.  They ignore the female penguins and all the other male penguins.”  I backed off.


“But why Kyle?  He’s so much older than you.”


I sat back down on the seat rather heavily. I still hadn’t completely accepted Kyle’s death. “What does that matter?  He’s dead.”


“It matters!  You’re under eighteen!”  He gestured again.


I started swinging again. “Yeah, so?  I’m over the age of consent.”


Kelly got this look of absolute disgust on his face.  “Does that mean you two did it?”


I stopped my swinging and got up. “That is none of your business,” I responded in a low voice with as much force as I could muster.  I suppose I could disgust him, let him know what Kyle and I did, and how often we did it.  I could even make stuff up, he’d never know.


Kel shook his head. “I can’t believe you never told me.”  It was obvious he didn’t want to think about the sex part, or discuss it any further.


“How do you know I didn’t?” I asked him. “With your memory of the last six months gone, you don’t know do you.  You don’t even know why my boyfriend was in your car or why you killed him.”


Kelly shuddered. “Don’t say that.”


“What? That you killed my boyfriend?  Or is it the word boyfriend you don’t like?” Kelly shuddered again. “Boyfriend? What’s wrong with that word Kel?”


“It’s not something a guy says.  It’s what a girl says.”


Kel shuddered for a third time. “Yeah, well, I guess I won’t be saying much in the future, now that Kyle’s gone.”


We both lapsed into silence, each not looking at the other. Kel finally moved over to the swing set and sat down.  I sat down again. “Did you ever tell me?” He finally asked.  “You know, during the six months that I’ve forgotten?”


I sighed. “Does it matter? You know now.”


“Of course it matters.  I’m trying to get my memory back, Toad.  I’m trying to get those six months back. To figure out what I forgot, and why I ended up in the hospital and why Kyle was in my car.  Did you tell me?”


I sighed again before I answered him. “Yeah, I told you. You were the first person I told.”


“Others know?” He sounded incredulous and surprised that I’d tell others.


“Yeah, they do now. I wasn’t going to tell anyone else, especially not after what happened the last time.”  I resumed my swinging.


Kel stopped swinging. “What do you mean the last time?”


“Let’s just say that you were even less receptive to the idea then you are now and leave it at that.”


“Was I that bad?” He sounded shocked.


“Yeah you were Kelly. You were a real asshole about it, about everything.  So much so that I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to come out to anyone else.  I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to go through that again.”


“But you obviously changed your mind.”


“No, not really.”


“What do you mean?”


“If it wasn’t for the accident you’d still be the only one who knows, or at least the only one I’d told.”


“How’d the accident change that?”


“Think about it.  My brother had been in a major car accident and some other guy was killed. Nobody we know knew who he was. Me. I was the only one who knew him. Nobody knew what he meant to me. I had to grieve privately for him.  I couldn’t go to his funeral; I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Nothing.  Jesse finally figured me out a few days after the accident. I slipped up or something, but she figured me out.  I came out to Jeremy while you were in the hospital. We’d kinda drifted apart. I’d been spending a lot of my free time with Kyle and not seeing so much of Jeremy. He couldn’t understand what had happened and why.  I had to tell him, I had to take the chance so he could understand.”


Kelly sat there for a couple of minutes before he spoke again, just moving ever so slightly back and forth.  “Did he take it better than I did?”


I let out a small chuckle. “Yeah, he did.  He took it like I was hoping you’d take the news.”  I paused.  “He had already been wondering about me so it didn’t come as much of a shock to him.  He later told me that he had a cousin who lived in Kansas who was gay.  His father kicked him out of the house.  He ended up living with his boyfriend and his’ boyfriend’s brother and the brother’s boyfriend.”


He turned to look at me. “Why did you tell me?”


I paused for a few seconds before I answered him.  That was a good question.  Why did I tell him? “Why?  Cause you’re my brother, that’s why. I figured if anyone would understand, would accept me for what I was, my older brother would.”  Yeah, that sounds about right.


“And I was a real asshole?”


“Yeah. Fortunately I waited until we were the only ones home. Although with the way you yelled and screamed I was surprised the neighbors didn’t call the cops.”


He looked at me guiltily. “That bad, huh?”


“I’ve never been afraid of you Kelly, never in my whole life, except for that night. That night you scared the ever-living shit out of me. You yelled, you screamed, I thought you were going to hit me. You called me every name in the book and a few that I had never heard before and I hope I never hear again.”


Kelly stood up.  “I don’t remember any of that,” he said softly.


“Well, I do.” It was my turn to shudder thinking back to that night.  “I remember it vividly.”


“I didn’t hit you, did I?”


“No, not at that point.”


Kelly whipped around to face me.  “I hit you?”


I nodded. “Well, more like punched.  My stomach still hurts on occasion.”


“When did I hit you?”


“Shortly before you took off. I just thought you needed to think, to cool off.   I was wrong of course.”  Yeah, was I ever wrong.


“How were you wrong?”


“Cause that was the night of your accident. Apparently you took off to the Purple Onion after punching me. What happened after that and up until Dad got the call, only you and whoever was driving Kyle’s truck knows.”


Kel stopped moving and fell onto his ass on the ground.  I moved over to him. “Kelly!  You ok?”


It took him a second or two but he finally turned to look at me. “Yeah, I’m ok.  I just had a memory come back at me full force.  I remember being angry, very angry.”


“Yeah, you were rather angry that night. You were very mad at me.”


Kelly shook his head. “No, I don’t think I was,” he started to say. “I don’t know who I was mad at, but I don’t .think it was you.  Why’d I take off to the Purple Onion?”


“Probably because you thought that’s where you’d find Kyle.”


“You told me about Kyle?”


“It kinda slipped out. After your reaction to my telling you I was gay, I wasn’t going to say anything about Kyle. But it kind of slipped out.  You threw a nutty, punched me in the stomach and took off.”


Kelly got up and grabbed me in a hug. “Oh god, Toad, I’m so sorry!”  I held onto him tightly and I hugged him back.


“Why the different ‘tude this time bro?” I asked him when we finally separated.


“What do you mean?”


“When I came out to you last time, you were an asshole, this time, you’re much calmer.”


He stood there for a couple of seconds before he answered.  “Guess I was more prepared this time.”


I gave him a questioning look.


“Ever since I awoke from the coma I’ve been trying to get my memory back, figure out what I was missing, what happened and why.  I was trying to figure out why I was at a gay club, why I had some guy in my car that I don’t think I ever knew. I talked to Blake about it and he assured me that I was straight, but still I wondered if maybe I was hiding it, even from him.  So I started to do some investigating and that lead me to the computer.”


My face fell. “Oh.”


“Yeah, the computer, Toad. I found stuff on there, pictures, stories and all this other stuff. Stuff that I’d never seen before, at least, not that I could remember.  Maybe it was mine, maybe I was gay, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d not remember that.  I’d printed out the picture and Hiro, Blake and I camped out at the Onion.  That’s when I saw the two guys in the picture.  I confronted them about it and it came to me. It wasn’t me who was gay, but you.”


I couldn’t think of anything to say to him, so I kept quiet.


“Did you love him?” Kel asked me after a couple of minutes of silence.


I returned to the swing before I answered. I chuckled as I sat down.  “Jer asked me the same thing after I came out to him.” I used my feet to give me some small momentum on the swing. “I don’t know. We’d not been dating long enough for me to know for sure.  I felt something, that much is certain but was it love? I don’t know. I cared about him, that’s for sure and I know he cared about me, but love? I don’t know.”


Kelly just nodded and we lapsed back into silence.  We’d been absentmindedly swinging for about ten minutes when Kelly spoke again.  I couldn’t hear what he said so I simply replied “Huh?”


“I asked ‘Why?’.”


“Why what?”  I was confused with what he was asking.


“Why you? Why are you gay?”


I looked toward him. “Does it matter?”


Kelly turned to look at me before he answered.  “Yeah, it matters. I want to know why.”


“Well, I’d love to know why too, Kel.  I was asking that question a lot when I figured out I was gay.  Why was I gay, why would Mother Nature make me that way?”


“Mother Nature? You mean you didn’t choose this?”


“I didn’t choose this, I am this,” I answered him somewhat angrily. “Why would I choose this?  With the way people think of gays, .the way they’re harassed, and treated, and discriminated against why would I choose this?  No I didn’t choose this; I am this. Whether it’s a genetic fluke that happens by chance or it’s Mother Nature’s way of controlling the population I don’t know, but I do know that I definitely didn’t choose this.  I’d always felt different, that much I know, but it wasn’t until puberty hit that I finally figured it out.”


Kel didn’t respond to that.  After a couple of minutes he got up and motioned me to follow him.  “You got your keys?” He asked as we headed back toward the house.


I got up and followed. I started to reach into my pocket. “Yeah, why?”


He held out his hand. “Give them to me.”


I stopped.  “Why? Where are we going?”


He motioned with his hand for the keys. “You’ll see.  Just give them to me.”


I tossed the keys to Kelly and we headed off to my car.  He got in the driver’s seat and I got in the passenger seat.  As Kelly started the car, the stereo blared.  He turned it down and backed out of the driveway.


“What song is that?” He asked as we headed down the street.


“It’s a remake of a song by The Smiths.  The group that redid it is called Love Spit Love.  The song is called ‘How Soon is Now’.  It’s from the movie ‘The Craft’ and from the TV show ‘Charmed’.  I’ve always liked the song but it wasn’t until after I had come out to you the first time that the words really hit home.  I’ve been playing it almost exclusively since then.”


Kelly hit the back button on the CD player and turned up the volume.


“I am the son

I am the heir

Of a shyness

That is criminally vulgar

On a summers day like

Nothing in particular


You shut your mouth

How can you say

I go about things the wrong way

I am human and I need to be loved

Just like everybody else does


I am the son

I am the heir

Of a shyness

That is criminally vulgar

On a summers day like

Nothing in particular


You shut your mouth

How can you say

I go about things the wrong way

I am human and I need to be loved

Just like everybody else does


There's a club if you'd like to go

You could meet someone who really loves you

So you go and you stand on your own

And you leave on your own

And you go home and you cry and you want to die


When you say it's gonna happen now

When exactly do you mean?

See I've already waited too long

And all my hope is gone”


As the song ended Kel pulled my car over to the side of the road.  He turned to look at me. “Oh Toad, I’m so sorry.”  The words of the song, and our conversation obviously had sunk in.


“It’s ok Kel.”


“Really?” He sounded scared. Afraid that I might reject him for the way he acted.


“Yeah really.”


“So you’re not mad at me?”


“No, not any more.”


He turned to look out the front window.  “But you were.”


I paused before I answered, trying to get my thoughts of that evening together. “Yeah, I was.  I was rip shit at you Kel.  I was so angry that night.” I swallowed. “I was angry at you for the way you acted, the way you treated me, but I was also angry at myself.  Angry that I lost control of the situation, that I thought I knew you. But then the accident happened and your coma and they weren’t sure when you’d wake up and being angry at you just seemed to be unimportant.”


Kelly nodded and threw the car into first. He stepped off the brakes and clutch and gave the car some gas. He pulled back onto the road cutting a car off in the process.  “Asshole!” he yelled as he accelerated away.


“Where are we going?” I asked again.


“You’ll see in a few minutes.”


We continued heading out of town and I finally figured out where we were going.  Kelly pulled into Woodlawn Cemetery and we drove up and down a bunch of the streets before we saw a group of people gathered around a grave.  They had a small backhoe and some shovels and they seemed to be bringing dirt out of a grave. 


As we slowed down to watch a guy in a rumpled trench coat turned to face us.  “What’s Detective Dick doing here?” Kelly asked as we continued past.