Ryan's secret is spilled and he and Brendon have a discussion about their religious views. They may not believe in God, but they sure have someone on their side when a message on their PureVolume p...
I sometimes envy people who find comfort in God. The people who know that He will always be there for them. He is their rock that holds them to this world. There are two older women who go to my church that recently lost their husbands. One from a heart attack and the other from kidney problems that he has had for years. There is a group of three ladies that always sit in the same spot each week and are always up to date on the latest gossip. To be honest, they’re very annoying; they talk through the entire mass and I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to punch them in the face. However, I overheard them talking the last time my dad dragged me there. They said how great it was that, even though those women had just lost the loves of their lives, they still came to church. That they could come for comfort during one of the hardest times in their lives was a wonderful thing in their eyes. It’s amazing how much faith people can have in something that they’ve only heard of.
I wish I could have half the faith of those widowed women.
The next week, Brendon had practice, but I went home instead saying I didn’t feel well. I woke up with a fever and a migraine the next day, but had an essay due so I went to school anyway. I told Brendon that I would see him at home as I pedaled away after the final bell. It looked like it was going to rain.
When I got home, I took some ibuprofen and tried to sleep. I woke up an hour later, my headache fading slightly and decided to take a shower. I looked in the mirror at my naked reflection. Bruises still covered my body and my cuts hadn’t healed as much as I had hoped they would. If I had told my ten year old self that this is what life would become when he was seventeen, I would have killed myself then and there. This is not the life I would have chosen. I would say I would take it all back, but the way my life turned out was probably inevitable. I couldn’t have stopped my mom from taking those pills or my dad from picking up that drink. No matter what I may have done, my mom would still be dead; my dad would still be a drunk who uses his son as a punching bag. My actions to help me cope, even though I wish they would be different, would still consist of self-harm. Everything that led up to this moment is integral. Besides, if even one of those events was off, I may not have met Brendon. I wouldn’t change the pain if it meant never meeting him.
When I finished my shower, I heard a dull roll of thunder and wondered when it had started raining. I love the rain. I sleep better when it rains and, sure it may make some people feel depressed, myself included, I like it. The sereneness of it all. The dark cloud cover, the cool breeze, and the soft pattering of the rain on the roof. I like looking out the window and seeing the rain drops rolling across the clear glass pane. When I was younger, I would pretend they were racing each other.
I wiped away the steam from the mirror and tousled my dripping hair in a towel. Opening the door, I saw Brendon two feet away with something in his hand. It was then I realized I was only in my boxers. My short boxers that don’t cover my thighs in their entirety.
“What are you doing home so early?” I asked, panicking, trying to nonchalantly cover my thighs with a towel.
“Practice got rained out and Dallon gave me a ride,” he explained before changing the subject.
“I was going to ask what this was,” Brendon said, holding up the object in his hands. A pale blue towel stained with patches of a dark rust color. “But I can see exactly what it is,” he said looking down at my legs. Throwing the bloodstained towel at my feet, he stormed off and I heard the slam of the front door. I dug my fingernails into my palms in frustration and ran to grab a shirt and pants before running after him.
Racing out the door, I stood on the porch for a moment. The drizzle had turned to a downpour, something that rarely happened in Vegas. I squinted trying to see through the sheets of rain to find Brendon. I stepped off the concrete porch and was immediately soaked with the rain, my clothes sticking to my body. I looked down the street to my right and left, but I couldn’t see him. Jogging a few doors down, I knocked on Spencer’s door. His mom answered. “Ryan? What on earth are you doing out in the rain?” she asked, trying to usher me inside, but I pushed her away.
“Did you see where Brendon went? He stormed off and I—” I said helplessly.
“No, honey, I haven’t. What happened?”
Nothing. Just me screwing things up like always. “I just need to find him,” I told her, avoiding the question.
“I’ll let you know if I see him. Do you want help looking? I could ask Spence—”
“No, thanks. I think should do this on my own,” I told her, turning away.
“Be careful, Ryan,” she called after me as I stepped off the porch and down the slick sidewalk.
I had no idea where to even begin looking, so I just walked. I thought about what to say. How I could possibly make it up to him. How I had messed everything up because I was weak. One moment of weakness caused all this pain. I cause pain. My mom was smart. I just wish I could have been too before I met Brendon. No matter how much I want to die, I can’t and every day I’m torn between the will to live and the will to die. I can’t leave Brendon behind. Or Spencer. They would blame themselves and after everything I’ve put both of them through… But some days I just can’t handle what life throws at me. In the end, however, they don’t need any more chaos and turmoil from me, so I put down the pills and choose life against my most morbid, desperate wishes.
I had been searching for almost an hour and still nothing. I had reached the park and ducked under an oak tree. Digging into my pocket, I pulled out my phone and dialed Brendon’s number. It went straight to voicemail. Of course…
Sighing in defeat, I looked around. The park was abandoned of the usual crowd of laughing children playing in the monkey bars and others daring each other to jump off the swings. There were no parents yelling at their children to be careful or trying to catch them to bring them home for dinner. The rain had driven the happiness of the place away replacing it with ghosts of smiles and a hunched over figure on the nearest set of swings. His head was bent to look at the ground, the rain dripping off his dark hair and cascading down his sullen face.
I approached him slowly, but he turned his head and stood up. He started to walk away. “Brendon, wait!” I shouted, but my voice was drowned out by a crack of thunder. “I’m sorry, okay?” I called out.
Brendon stopped and turned to me. “What?”
“I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I’m sorry I keep hurting you and I’m sorry… about everything,”
“Ryan, no, I—” he protested.
“No, let me get this out,” I interrupted, putting up my hand. Taking a breath, I began. “I am trying, but you don’t know how hard it is to stop. To teach myself how to cope without being destructive. Call me selfish, but I didn’t care what I did or what happened to me. I would go to sleep at night crying, praying that I wouldn’t wake up and have to face another day.” I felt warm tears squeeze from my eyes and combine with the cool drops of rain. I hope he didn’t notice; I hate crying when I’m trying to make a point.
“That changed when I met you,” I said softly, looking up into Brendon’s big brown eyes that I fell so hard for the first time I saw him. “I still hate myself, but at least I have a reason to get up in the morning.” I smiled thinking of the many nights when I wake from a nightmare to see Brendon still sleeping, his angelic features still at rest and peaceful. Sometimes I just sit there and stare and picture us years from now, sleeping in the same bed. Those thoughts allow me to drift into a more serene sleep.
“You’re trying to help me, but some days I wish you never knew. Then I wouldn’t disappoint you when I hurt myself again. I know you’re just trying to help, but it’s too much sometimes and there’s only so much you can do. I don’t want you to go away, but I’m so scared that you’ll have had enough and just abandon me. I couldn’t handle that.” Brendon walked back to me and was just a few feet in front of me by the time I finished talking. I backed away a little and felt the rough trunk of the oak tree behind me, being beneath its branches allowed for some relief from the pounding rain.
He put his hands on either side of my face and said, “I’m never going to leave you. Do you understand? I am not giving up on you. I know you’re trying and I know this is hard, but I’m not just going to give up. I love you too much to do that.” Reaching up, he gently raked his fingers through my drenched hair, dragging it away from my face.
“I love you so much,” I told him, pulling him close. He wiped away my tears with his thumb and touched his lips to mine.
I kissed him with all that I had, pouring every ounce of myself into it. I wrapped my arms around his waist, our bodies pressed against each other. He kissed me back with a sense of urgency, his fingers digging into my back.
“I shouldn’t have run off,” Brendon apologized. “I just don’t want to see you hurt. I failed. I tried to protect you, but knowing that I can’t… It scares me.” Brendon looked down and intertwined his fingers with mine. “God should have made you a bird.”
We walked home, changed, and crawled into my bed. I shrunk next to Brendon as he held me. I put my head on his chest, the slow, even rise and fall of his chest soothing me.
“Hmm?” he hummed, absent-mindedly stroking my hair.
“What made you stop believing?” I asked, playing with a string on the hem of his shirt.
“In God. Why did you stop believing?”
“Oh,” he paused, trying to find the right words. “Well, I’ve had doubts my whole life, but when I found out about your dad and everything, I thought that, if there was a God, why would He let that happen? How could He sit back and let your dad hurt you. And then when I found out about you I was angry with Him. How could He allow one person to feel so much pain that they wanted to kill themselves? I never felt God present in my life growing up and that just proved to me that He wasn’t present at all. If He is all-knowing and forever loving, how could He allow such pain in His creation?”
I stayed quiet. He noticed my hesitation and added, “I don’t know if that’s a stupid reason or not, but it’s true. All I know is that if there is a God, He doesn’t care.”
“No, it’s not stupid,” I whispered, releasing the twisted piece of string and smoothing out his shirt, feeling his firm body beneath.
“I guess the biggest thing for me, besides all of that, is that Mormons condemn homosexuality. I’ve grown up with parents that are so close-minded to gay people that there was no way I could come out to them. I knew what I was before I even knew you, but when I met you I knew you were it. That if it was wrong, I didn’t want to be right. If the God that my parents put all their faith into hated me because I loved you, then I wanted nothing to do with Him.”
Catholics think that, too. They say that you’re allowed to be gay; you are just not allowed to act on it. Desires are “disordered”, but actions are sin. They recognize that people have no control over whether they are gay or not, but it is considered a great sin if you have sex with someone of the same gender. That it is improper, sinful, unnatural even.
If God created everyone in His likeness and image and loves all of us unconditionally, why would He have a problem with who we fall in love with and choose to give ourselves to?
“Me neither,” I told him with a slight smile, lifting my head to look up at him. He smiled back and I blushed. Craning my neck, I kissed him, our lips barely brushing. “Thank you for choosing me.”
“I’m not going to go against what we have to please a bunch of Bible pushers,” he stated, folding his hands beneath his head. “They can think what they want. Shun me, hate me, I don’t care. They can believe what they want, in a God that they believe exists, but as long as I have you, I know I’ll be okay. I would endure an eternity in Hell if I could spend a lifetime with you.”
“Aw, Bren,” I breathed. “You wouldn’t last a lifetime with me. I hear I can be a real pain in the ass.”
He shifted himself and looked down at me, a twinge of a smile touching the corners of his mouth. “Perhaps,” he sighed, “but you’re mine.”
In early April, I applied for a job at the bookstore a few blocks from my house; mostly for something to do. I could use the extra cash and I get a discount on books. It’s a win-win.
When I came home from my first shift, I found Brendon hunched over the kitchen table scribbling on a very important looking form.
“What is that?” I asked, setting my keys down on the hard wooden surface.
Without looking up, he answered, “Job app. Spencer told me there was an opening at his work. Besides,” he looked up and set his pen down, “I think it’s about time I contribute.”
“Brendon, I already told you, it’s fine. My dad still makes enough money to pay the bills. Surprisingly,” I added under my breath. I snatched the form from the table and read it. “You do realize you will have literally no time to work at a job, right? Besides, the only reason Spencer got the job is because his uncle owns it. You technically have to be eighteen to work there.”
“Sure, I’ll have time. After school—”
“You have practice until five. And then you come home to do homework,” I pointed out, placing the paper back in front of him.
“Well, then weekends.”
“You have practice on Saturdays and more homework that you insist on keeping until Sunday night
at ten. Which drives me crazy, by the way.”
“Ok, mom,” he groaned, frustrated.
“You don’t need a job. I’m saving up for a new guitar. Speaking of which…” I trailed off as I shuffled to the living room and grabbed my laptop from the coffee table. Turning it on, I went to our PureVolume page and checked our messages. It was usually just filled with weird stalker girls saying they wanted to “touch you while you sleep”. Sometimes, however, there were serious ones asking us questions and whatnot. Clicking the link MESSAGES, I scrolled down the page looking for something interesting. My eyes caught one from a user whose name I recognized.
“No,” I muttered.
“What?” Brendon asked, joining me on the couch.
I pointed to the screen and looked at him. “That’s not really him is it?”
“Can’t be,” Brendon answered. “Open it.”
I opened the message and this is what it said.
Brendon, Ryan, and Spencer,
I came across your music last week by mere chance and have not been able to get it out of
my mind. I see you guys are from Las Vegas. I live in LA and was wondering if you would be
interested in an audition for me. I’m starting a new record label and your sound is exactly
what I’m looking for. Let me know. I can fly out next Saturday. I look forward to seeing
you guys and possibly working with you on your future music career.
At the bottom of the page, he left his number for us to call.
Brendon and I stared at the screen for a few moments before looking at each other, a look of
pure shock across his face. He sprang to his feet at the exact moment I did. I grabbed the computer and we rushed out the door and down the sidewalk to Spencer’s house.
We both knocked on the front door until someone answered. Spencer opened the door and we plowed through him and ran to the living room, Brendon pulling him behind us.
“What the hell are you doing?” Spencer asked, plopping down next to us on the couch.
“Look,” I said, pushing the computer in front of him. Brendon and I waited impatiently for Spencer to finish reading the message.
“This has to be a joke. There’s no way Cameron Pierce, the lead singer of Early December, would send us a message saying he wants to see us play,” he finalized when he finished reading.
“Only one way to find out,” Brendon smiled. “Call him.”
“Oh, come on. You really think that that’s a real phone number?” I asked.
“Again,” Brendon repeated, “only one way to find out.” He dug his phone from his pocket and handed it to me.
“You’re the oldest,” Spencer said, slapping Brendon’s phone into my hand, “Dial the number.”