This book will launch on Oct 1, 2019. Currently, only those with the link can see it.🔒
Synopsis

On the surface, high school junior Shane has it all: a spot on the soccer team, a popular girlfriend, and a pretty cool mom. But in order to belong, he’s hiding who he really is; after all, nobody “wants a fag” for a friend, a boyfriend, or a son. If he doesn’t find someone to confide in soon, he’s literally going to kill himself. Desperate for a sympathetic ear, Shane reaches out to his French teacher, Mr. Bridge. But can he really trust the eccentric loner?

ChapterOne



IwanttorunmyhandthroughKurtThompson’s hair, butIcan’tbecausehe’saguyandsoamI.Ifthat’snotenoughtomakeyoukillyourself,Idon’tknowwhatis.

I’mdancingwithmygirlfriend,andKurt’sdancingwithhis.EachtimeCassandraandImakeaturninourslowdance,IpeekthroughherhairtolookatKurt.Hiseyesaremostly closed,butthere’s amoment,attheveryendofthesongwhenheopenshiseyesandlooksrightatme.Hesmilesandgivesmeanodofhischinandalook.Alookthattearsrightthroughme. His eyes were Billy-Idol blue and he even had the sexy smile to match. 

JustlastyearI’dbeennormal.Ihadbeenjustlikeeveryoneelse.GodhowI’dclungto that.Nouseanymore:myentireplannedfutureofagirlfriendandcollegeandawifeandkids andahouseobliteratedthemomentKurtlookedatme.Gone.Myfeelingsweren’tjustlonginglooksthatIcouldhideforever,theywerephysicalreactionsbeyondmycontrol.Ireallywasdoomed.

TheschoolyearatWesthaven Highalwaysbeganwithadance.Itwassomethingtheprincipalthoughtwasagreatwaytostarttheyear. Butifyouwereastudent,itwaskindof a nightmare.Wewereallaskingourselveswhatwe’daccomplishedoverthesummerbreak?Had yourfacefinallystoppedbreakingout?Hadyoufinallyfilledout:heightandfacialhairforguys; titsandassforgirls.Ifso,thefirstplacetoreallyshowitalloff wasthedance.Nopressure.

“Let’sgetsomefreshair.” Cassandrajuttedherchintowardthepatiotothesideofthegym.“Freshair”reallymeant“makeoutuntilwesprainourtongues.”ForagoodCatholicgirl,shesure knewhowtokiss.Latelyshe’dbeenlayingitonthickthatweshouldsleeptogether.She’dalreadytriedoverthesummer,butI’dputitoff,sayingweoughttowait.IevenadmittedIwasavirgin,whichshethoughtwasreallysweet.Iwasn’tsurehowtofeelaboutthat.Relievedthatshe’dbackedoffalittle?OrinsultedthatshewasmoreexperiencedthanIwas?Makingoutwasonething,butCassandrahadbeenpushingformoreandmoreprivateencounters—encountersthatcouldgofrommakingouttosexbeforeIwouldeverhaveachancetostopit.

Evenifshewasn’tavirgin,fakingmyfeelingsthroughourfirsttimeseemedlikesomekindoflovecrime.Iwasn’ttryingtobechivalrous;Ididn’twantmyfirsttimetobesomekindofOscar-worthyactingexercise.Iwantedittobereal,tobegenuine,likeanyonedoes.

Mysecondlineofdefensewasmycurfew(11 onweeknights,midnightonweekends),whichmademyjobaloteasier.Normally,wewouldjustbemovingfromheavykissingtosomeunder-the-shirtstuffwhenweranoutoftime.UsuallyIdidn’tmindmakingoutthatmuch,buttonight,itgratedagainstmydance-floorfantasyofbeinginaboy’s arms.Ineededamomenttoswitchgears.

“Igottagotothebathroom.”Iyelledabovethemusic,pointingtotherestroomonthe othersideofthegym.

Shepointedthatshe’dmeetmeoutsideonthepatioandleftmeinthethrongofkids rockingtheauditorium.Onthesurface,Iwasjustlikethem.Imadethegrades,belongedtothe soccerteam,wenttotheparties—sotypicallystraightthatnobodysuspectedathing.Onthe inside,Iwasdying.

Inthebathroom,Istoodatthesinkandsplashedwateronmyface.IhadtogetKurtoutofmy headandfocusontheeveningasitwas.Okay,so,Iwasn’treallyinterestedingirls,didn’tliveinaprogressivetown,andwouldneverhaveaboyfriendinhighschool.ButIwassafe.WithCassandraonmyarm,atleastIwasn’tasuspect.Iwasn’texactlyTheRock,butIwasafarcryfromstereotypicallygayguysforwhomtherewasnoescapingdetection.

Cassandrawasgreattohangwith;justbeingaroundhergavemeconfidencetobranch outalittle.Shedidn’tmindthatIwasdifferentandevenappreciatedmytastein80’sretroclothes.Itgavemea“look”shesaid.Peopleweren’tsomuchlookingatme,ShaneNoble,astheywerelookingatguy-in-cool-clothes-with-cool-girl.I’dpassedanentry-leveltestthatgave melicensetobealittlefreer.

Justforthedance,I’dboughtthisultracoolmidnightbluesummer-weightsuit,andathrift-storefedora.Tocompleteit,Iworeablackt-shirt,apinstripevest,andaredsilktiehungloosearoundtheneck.Igavemyselfanodinthemirror.

ThenoutofthestallscametheAssholePatrol:Rick“theDick”Blakely,JimBartell,andtheirfreshmanlackey,DylanThompsonwhowasallredhairandpimples,but“cool”becausehewasonjuniorvarsitysoccer.Thethreeofthemwereliketripletsseparatedatbirth.Bullytriplets.WhileIwasofficiallyfriendswithRickandJim,itwasmorelikefrenemies becauseIneveractuallyconfidedinthem,wewereconstantlycompetingagainsteachotheron thefield,andRickhadtriedtodateCassandrabeforeme.Theirgeniuswasthatinpublic,they onlygaveyouafriendlytease—whentheycaughtyoualone,theyshowedadarkersidethat wasfreakyinapack-leader-and-wolveskindofway.

“Youwantsome?”Rickbrushedbackhisblackhairtorevealicyblueeyes.Hepushedajointmyway.“Thisshitisepic.”Ishookmyhead,pretendingtobecaughtupingroomingmyselfatthemirror.“Thanks,butI’llpass.”(Tip:Avoidingoffersofmale-bondingbypretendingtogroomoneselfisthewrongwaytocounterrumorsthatyou’regay.)

“Don’ttoke?”RickfrownedlikeI’dsaidIdidn’teatpizza.“Asthma...”Isaid,takingastepbackfromthesmokecloud.

Ricknodded.“Soyoudon’tsmoke.Don’treallydrinkfromwhatI’veseen. Whatdoyoudo?”

I half laughed because they wouldn’t have known it but Rick’s line was almost verbatim from the song “Goody Two Shoes” by Adam Ant’s third and final 1982 song. Imovedtoleave,butJimandDylansteppedinmyway.“Hey,we’rejust chatting,right?”Ricktouchedmytie,andwhenIlookeddown,heflickedmynose: gotcha.“So,youdownherpantsyet?”

“Sorry?”Ifeignedcluelessness.God,hewassuchafuckingjerksometimes.

“Cassie...youdownherpantsorjustpretendingtobeinterested?You’vebeengoingoutsincelastyear.”

“What’reyou,herchaperone?”

Helaughedinmyface.“Nah,shedon’tneedonewithyouaround.You’renottryinganythingfromwhatIhear.What’syoursecret,Noble?ToobusylookingatKurtThompson?”

Myheartstopped:They’rewatchingme.“Yeah,onthedancefloor.Youreyeswerejustaboutgluedtohim,weren’tthey,guys?”JimandDylansnortedandchuckledoncue.“Dude’sgotahard-onformybrother,”saidDylan,givingJimapunch.“Wait’tilItellKurt.”

MyfaceburnedandIfroze.

“Yougay,Noble?Thisschool’salreadygotonefaggot,whynottwo?Maybeyouandcanmakebuttholebabiestogether.”

Iflashedbacktofirstsemestersophomoreyear.Lunch.Small-framedDavidMortimergetting hisasskickedrightthereonthecommons.Bloodynose.Screaminghisfoolheadoff.And allI couldthinkwas,Ifhejustdidn’twearthatultra-gayflight-attendantscarf.Why?Whythescarf,David?

Buttodayit’sworsethanjusthisscarf;it’shislaptop.Theygrabitbeforehecanshutitoff,andthere it is:“proof.”His#1playlistonYouTubeisasongbythescreaminglygayMikafeaturingscreenshotsofMarioLopezandZacEfron.Theyformaringaroundhimashe triestogetout.TheyeachgetinonereallygoodhitbeforeDeanNewcombefinallybreaksitup andtakesthemalltotheoffice.CouldNewcombedraghisfatassanyslower?Hello!Littleguygettinghisasskickedoverhere!Thetwoamigoswalkawayhi-fiving,knowingthey’llbeback intimeforsoccerpracticewhichIactuallysharewiththem,hatingitsometimessomuchI actuallyconsiderswitchingtocross-country,orswimming(exceptI’dhavetowearoneofthoseskin-tight dick hammocks).CassietellsmethatintheofficeDavidwon’tsayawordandspinelessPrincipalSchifrinletsitslide.VicePrincipalBlakely—yes,Rick’smother—reallyrunstheschool,butifsheoversawherownson’s discipline,wellthat’dbetoodirectwouldn’tit?DavidMortimer—ifhe’ssmart—he’llbeapplyingtooneofthosegayhighschoolsinNewYorkCityandwe’llneverseehimagain.Me? Ican’tgetfoundout—I’llendupbeingthenextDavidMortimer.Ican’tletthathappentome;it’dkillmymother.Hell,it’dkillme.

 “Kurt?Areyoukiddingme,IwascheckingBritneyout.”Icheckedmyhairandtietryingto soundhipwhenreallyIwasabouttoshitmypants.“Now,that’sasweetass.”ItwasthebestIcoulddo;besides,therewasnowaytheycouldknowexactlywhoIwaslookingat.(Tip:Ifyouhavetolie,rememberthatit’salotlikeacting;believewhatyou’resayingandsowillthey.)

Rick’sflintyeyesblinkedacoupleoftimes,hisprocessorsrunningacheckonthedata.Thenheboughtit.Orseemedto,withbulliesyoucanneverquitebesure.Inodded,wanting morethananythingjusttobeontheothersideofthebathroomdoor.

“Dude!Itotallyhadyougoin’!”saidRick,hisfacesuddenlybrightening.“YouthoughtIwasserious?!”Hegavemeafriendlybutjust-a-little-too-hardpatontheface.“Nobiggie, dude.”

“Justfuckin’withyou,bro,”saidJim,offeringmeafistbump.Ipunchedback,noticinghowsmallmyhandwasagainsthis.Hewasabigred-headedmooseofaguy.Iletmyselfhaveahalflaughbeforerealitywashammeredhomeonemoretime.

“Butditchthatretroshit,”saidRick,thumpingmyhat.“Totallymakesyoulooklikeafag.Losethetieoryou’llnevergetlaid.Andyouwanttogetlaid,right,Noble?”

Theydisappearedoutthedoorintoablastofmusicandlights,leavingmewhip-lashed butatleastmomentarilyalone.Godthoseguysweregood;Ihadtheshakesandthey’dbarely doneathing.HardtobelievethatthiswasasfarasI’dgotteninthefriendsdepartment.Wehad spentafternoonssincethirdgradeonsoccerfieldsandhockeyrinks.Thenwehadgottencloserin scouting,andreallyseemedtobondwhenwe’dalldecideditwastoogayforsuburbanwanna-be badboyslikeus.Now,Iwasalwaysonthefringeoftheirradicalmoodswingsincool-dom,but Istillbelonged.Butintheirincreasinglyerraticdrive-bys,Iknewthatmysafetywasasthinas mynormalcy:oneslipanditwouldbeover.Yes,waiter,I’llhavetheDavidMortimerwithasidedishoftotalrejection,please.

Onautopilot,myhandstookthetieoff, stuffingitintomypocket.MyretrodreamsofDuran-Duraningitupforthedancewereover. HadIactuallybeensodeludedthatI’dfantasizedaboutdoingNickRhodeseyemake-upforChill,theholidaydance?Forthemoment,Ihad escapedanythingpermanentoccurring,butwhetherRicksaidtheywerekiddingornot,they reallyhadbeenwatchingme.AndIhadnoideahowlongthathadbeengoingon.Ijustwanted torun,togohome.IwasafraidthatassoonasIsawCassandra,she’dknowsomethingwas wrong,getmetocrack:‘Homo?Whywouldtheythinkyou’reahomo?’SoIdidn’tgiveherachance.

Ileftthebathroomlikearocket,spottedCassieatthepatiorailing,grabbedheranddoveintoa kisslikeanOlympicmedalist.Igrabbedandpawedatalltheappropriatespots,lettingherpush myhandsaway.Finallyshestoppedandturnedherheadaway.“Ok, ok.Ineedtocomeupforair.”ShelaughedalittleandIcouldtellI’doverdoneitjustright.“Where’syourtie?”

Ipattedthefrontofmypants.“Gothotdancing—inmypocket.”

“Oh,isthatwhatthatis?”ShegropedmegentlyandIknewthatshewasreadyforround two,butI couldn’tgothereagain.SoIpretendedtonoticethebigwallclockinside.

“Ohshit,it’salready10:30.Weshouldbegoing.”

Cassandrasighedinfrustration.“Woulditkillyoutobelatejustonce?What’s yourmothergoingtodo,shootyou?”

“No,she’lljustpulltheplugongoingoutforasemester, isthatwhatyouwant?”Ibrushedthehairoutofherfaceandgaveherasensualcaressonherarmsthewaysheliked.

“Jesus,Shane,withyourmomaround,whoneedsabstinence-onlyprograms?”

BeforeIcouldsoftenherreaction,Cassandrawasmarchingofftowardtheparkinglot. 

* * *

Thedrivetomyapartmentwasalittlequiet,windowsdown,heaton,tunesuptooloudtotalk.

“Idon’tmeantobeabitch,Shane.”Cassandraletthecaridle,theamberdashlights givingheranunrealglow.“Iappreciatethatyourmomhasrules,andthat’s good.ButIfeellikewhatwehaveismaybeworthupdatingtherulesfor.Imeanyouwantme,right?”

“OfcourseIdo.”Ilied.Theseveraltimeswe’dgottenclosetodoingit,itwasmewho hadtoputthebrakeson.Cassandrawasreadytogo,verycomfortablewithherbody,andwithgivingittome.Ifeltlikeshitfornotfeelingthesameway.

“I’lltalktoher.Butyouknowhowsheis?There’s notmuchyoucanhidefromanurse. She’sgoingtoknowthatlatercurfewsmeanssexandIdon’tknowifshe’sreadyforthat.”

“Andwhataboutyou?”Shetookmyhandandsmiledwarmly, thepissed-offCassandra gone.“Howdoyoufeelaboutthat?Aboutme?”

“Iwanttodoit,youknowIdo.Ijustwantittoberight,youknow?”

Shesaid“metoo,”butIgotthefeelingthatifI’dsaidIwasreadyrightthenthatshe’d haveyankedmeintothebackseat.WekissedgoodnightandIwalkedupthestairsofmy building,turningtowavedutifullyasshedroveoff.

Thetown-house-styleapartmentwhereIlivedwithmymomwasalwaysquietatnight.Shewas onnightsatMercyGeneralintheER.Wedidn’thavetoworryaboutmoney, butthetwelve-hourshiftsweretoughonherandleftmealotoftimeonmyown.Myfriendsthoughtitwascool, andsodidIforawhile.Butyoucanonlyskipsomuchhomework,wanderatnightsooften,or trytogetintotroublesomanytimesbeforeyourealizethatrealtroubleisalwaysoutthere waitingforyou.Onjunk-foodtrekstotheKwikMartI’dpassedenoughdrunks,runawaysand creepswhostaredatkidstoknowthatonlyluckwassavingmefromarun-in.SophomoreyearI startedstayingin,doingmyhomework,andwatchingwholelottaDiscoveryChannelandNat Geo.Nothingtotakeyourmindoffthingslikefindingoutthatourbrainsaremostlywater.

Inmyroom,tryingtoshakeoffwhathappenedatthedance,Ire-evaluatedmyselfinthefull-length mirror on the back of my door.DidIlooklikeafag?Couldpeoplereallytell?Onlinetherewerealwayspeopleleavingcommentsaboutthisstarorthatsinger“lookinggay,”“soundinggay,”or“actinggay.”SometimesIsawDavidMortimerinthehallwayandwonderedifhecouldtellaboutme.Hewas usuallybusykeepinghisheaddownandtryingtoavoidhisnextass-kicking,butIwonderedif hedidn’tpickuponmysignalnomatterhowbadlyItriedtosuppressit.IsthatwhattheAssholePatroldidonthedancefloor?Senseagayvibe?

My walls and ceiling were covered in the best of the 80s, literally like wallpaper I don’t think I’d seen the actual wall since I was 12. Yeah, I had the Bangles, and Sheena Easton, and the Go-Go’s, but they were just filler between my real loves. Duran Duran (them decked out in black and white, Simon in a trench coat, John Taylor in those loose leather pants!) Adam Ant, Stray Cats, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, Culture Club, Yazz, The Cure, The Smiths, and my all-time fav (drumroll please) Billy Idol. That guy was perfection. From the tip of his bleached out spikes to his battered boots, and every rubber bracelet and artfully torn shirt in between. So incredibly beautiful, but that raunchy grin that just makes your head spin. My 80s playlist from an old iPod was on eternal loop. The Smithereens “Blood and Roses” came on and I knew God had a sick sense of humor. The lyrics were exactly right: not belonging and love coming out wrong. 

Ifeltthelumpofthetieinmypocketandtookitout,unfurlingitlikeatinyflag.Itwas stillinaloopsoIputmyheadthroughthesoftnooseofit. The guys in these bands had it so good. Fame, fortune, any woman—or man—they could possibly want. Andthey made make-up cool for men. And not just Bowie or guys like Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes either. Billy fuckin' Idol, too. Street tough who could be pretty and rough at the same time. It never got any cooler than that; we’ve just been backsliding since then. Gay marriage?! Ha. What good is being married when your kid gets bullied at school because of his two moms or dads? How many minutes was I out of sweating a close encounter with the Asshole Patrol myself? What was it I had to do to get them off my back... have sex with Cassandra in public, post a video of us doing the nasty? Those guys were human earworms eating away at my brain. Faggot, I thought. Queer. Cocksucker. That’s all I’d ever be to them. If I made it to graduation, I’d just face more of them in college, and then at work.

“Faggot,”Isaidout loud,andgavethetieabackwardstug.Queer. Ipulledharder,thetiesqueezingmyjugular.Rick’s wordsburnedinmyears:“What’syoursecret,Noble?”Didhealreadyknow?Whoelseknew?Whatwouldhappenifeveryoneknew?Ipulledthetieuntilit cutoffthebloodtomyhead,immediatelygettingdizzyandweak.AfewmoresecondsandI’dbeout.

Iheardkeysinthefrontdoorandjerkedbacktoreality.

“Shane,youhomeearly?”Mom’s voicefilteredup,muffledbyheavycarpetingandthefloorbetweenus.Iwhippedthetiefrommyneckandquicklywenttoblockthedoorincaseshetriedtocomein.

“Justgettingreadyforbed,Ma.”

Shewasalreadyupstairs.“TheyoverstaffedtonightsoIgotsenthome.CanIcomein?”

Ithrewthetieonthebedpostandpulledoff myshirt.Iopenedthedooracrackandshehoveredoutside.

“Howwasthedance?YouandCassiehavefun?”

“Oh,itwastotallygreat.Butcouldwetalkaboutittomorrow?I’mkindatired.”

Afterthebriefestpause,“Sure.”Sheusedhercasualvoice,whichalwaysmademetense. “Goodnight,hon.”

Iheardherpaddownthehall,thenthesoftclickofherdoor.Wewerenoweachsealedinourrespectivemother/sonbunkers.ButwhowasIkidding?Shehadtoknowsomethingwasoff;wejusthadn’ttalkedaboutit.TheolderIgot,themoreinternalmyproblemsbecame.Askinnedkneeat8wasaloteasierforNurse-Momtodiagnosethanabrokenheartat16.Whowasto blameforthat?Herfornotdigging(well,okay,prying)ormefornotcomingforward?Butc’mon,really,comeforwardforwhat?Tohavemyheadchoppedoff?Parentsareallsupportiveuntiltheyactuallygetsomethingconcrete.Andthenit’s like“Drugs!?”“Suspendedforwhat?”“Pregnant?!How!?”I’dheardpeopleatschooltellinglunchroomwarstorieslongenoughto knowthatsecrecywas a necessary shield sometimes.

Ileftmyguard-postatthedoorandsankdownagainstthetangledmessofbeddingatmy headboard.AllthatcametomindweretheblondcurlsofKurtThompson’smane.Unaffected,unpretentious,nearlyunstyled,hewasnaturallybeautifulandundeniablymasculine.Enviedby theguysandadoredbythegirls.Youeitherwantedtobehim,orbewithhim.Andofcourse,Iwasinthelattergroup.ItwassoCapulet-Montagueitwassick. HowcouldmyheartbebrokenifIhadn’tevenhadarelationship?

Becauseattheratethingsweregoing(i.e.,glacial),Iwasn’tevergoingtohaveone.KurtThompsonwasaquarterback.Me,Iwasasafebackgroundplayeronthesoccerteam.Guyslikehim(i.e.straight)didn’tgoforguyslikeme(i.e.notstraight).(Tip:Beingstrategicallyneutralabouteverythingsexualmakesitreallyhardforanyonetofigureyouout.Howcantheydateyouiftheycan’tget toknowyou?)Andifsomebodyactuallydidlikeme,wellthenIwasreallydoomed.How couldweeverbetogether?Forget“Don’tAsk,Don’tTell,” myhighschool’spolicywas“Don’tTell,Don’tExist.”FromKurttoCassandratomymother,myentirelifewasalie.

Thetiewasstillonthebedpost.I’dreadonlineaboutotherboyswho’doffedthemselvesby hanging.Allyouhavetodoisfindsomethingtoputaroundyourneckandleanforward;once youpassedout,gravitydidtherest.Iputthetiebackaroundmyneckandslippeditneatlyover thebedposttotestit.Sure,Momwouldbedevastatedatfirst,butmaybenotwhenshefoundout thetruthaboutme.Wouldn’tthisbebetter?Nobodywantsafagforason.

About the author

Bruce Dane’s loss of a brother to suicide in high school inspired Why Can’t Billy Idol Love Me? As a volunteer for the anti-suicide hotline—the Trevor Project—he learned that a teen’s life can hinge on finding someone they can trust to talk to. This book is for them. view profile

Published on October 01, 2019

Published by GoRoguePress

60000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Lgbtq (fiction)

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