Scalded Fingers (Part 2)Posted: December 28, 2011
Some memories were too big to send down the drain. Like harrowing tumors, they clung to my lungs and made it hard to breathe.
It was the week before Halloween, and Ian asked me in fifth period if I wanted to go to a haunted house with his family that night.
“Michael’s going, too. You should come.”
I called my mom at lunch from the phone in my eighth-grade teacher’s classroom, and she said I could go, so after school the three of us walked to Ian’s house and waited for it to get dark.
Ian’s sister was two years younger than we were, and she kept hanging onto my arm when the clowns would jump out of the corners and scream at us. When we were done, we laughed and pointed at each other like you do after being afraid, and piled back into Ian’s mom’s gold Suzuki.
Since it was Friday, we decided to stay at Ian’s for the night. We were lying on the floor of his living room in front of the T.V., each with our own pillows and blankets. By 1 am, we had finished watching “American Pie,” and Michael made a suggestion.
“Want to buy a Playboy movie?”
Ian was flipping through the station guide, letting the cursor flirtatiously fall on the purple pay-per-view channels. My forehead started to sweat.
“My mom will probably see it on our bill if we do,” he responded.
“Just do it, dude.”
I remember little about the movie, save one, critical detail: I couldn’t stop staring at the men. While the exposed breasts were flying across the 72-inch screen, I remained scandalously uninterested. When the movie was over, I laid on my back, eyes-wide.
I could hear Ian and Michael snoring, so I knew they were asleep; the clock on the opposite wall told me it was 3. I snuck out of my sheets and to the computer, which was in the same room. I opened Internet Explorer to Google and typed two, fateful words into the search bar: “gay porn.”
Immediately, images filled the screen. My mouth dried, and I felt my boxers tighten right below my waist. I was beholden to the pictures and knew, for a moment, that I wasn’t the only person who had the kind of dreams I did.
I didn’t sleep that night.
In the morning, the three of us were fighting about lyrics to “Basket Case” by Greenday. To settle it, Ian went to the computer, opened Google, and began to type. The “G,” however, was enough to remind the site of what had happened the night before, and—like a curse—the two words returned to the screen.
“Holy shit. Who wrote that?” Ian began.
“That’s fucking sick,” Michael continued.
Tenuously, I tried to chime in: “Yeah, man…really gross.”
“Wait. Weren’t you on the computer last night, Todd? I swear I saw you.”
I suspected this was what it felt like when someone was trying to kill you. Both of them were staring at me and I felt naked, betrayed.
“No way. It was probably your sister.”
I don’t remember what happened next, as my temples began irregularly pounding. Like a washing machine that’s fallen out of balance, my head was carelessly spinning. Twenty minutes later, I left.
The next week, in Band, Michael looked at me from the clarinet section across the room and silently mouthed: “Faggot. You. Look. At. Gay. Porn.”
The fangs of fear took hold of my ankles that October morning, and for the next ten years—until I stumbled upon the clarity and courage to name the truth in his claim—I would spend my days fighting to forget what had happened. My nights, however, when my eyes were tired and my soul heavy—my nights would be hopelessly haunted.