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a short story by MATT SAYE
Kyle Irvin's world crashed around him when his mother died just
after he turned 16.
Kyle loved both of his parents. But he was closer to his mom
than his dad. His dad, Eric, was a bricklayer and grew up in an age
where men had to be tough and strong and, manly. Kyle felt like he
possessed those qualities, just not in the way that his father would've
wanted him to. Eric Irvine he wanted his son to grow up to be what his
Dad wanted him to be, and what he thought he was; a man's man. A
football playing, boxing, womanising man-whore. Kyle often thought of
his dad as emotionless, not to mention deaf to reason beyond his own
point of view. Anything remotely resembling emotion wasn't Eric
Irvine's forte, nor did he care to make it such.
Suffice it to say Kyle wasn't like his father, and the more he grew
up, and the more he discovered about himself and who he wanted to
be, the less he was like his father. Soon, Kyle felt, the similarities
would start and end at blood relation.
Kyle was always more like his mother Catherine, who was warm,
gentle and sensitive.
His mother became his closest confidant through Kyle's teenage
years. He told her pretty much everything, including the kind of things
he would never dream of telling his dad. Kyle and his mom had such
an open relationship that sometimes, she forgot he was her son. He
would openly discuss masturbation with her, and though she tried to
help him out, she was limited. She'd often encouraged him to talk
about things with his father, and tried to encouraged Eric to do the
same, but neither wanted to know. The disconnect between him and
his dad stopped Kyle, while Eric felt that a boy should learn these
things on his own.
The boxing lessons and the football training were Eric's ways of
making his son a “man”, but Kyle needed more than that. His mom
tried, and Kyle always appreciated that.
Kyle came out as gay to his mom at sixteen. She was as
supportive of the news as any child would hope, and quickly reassured
him that he didn't have to be nervous. Kyle could barely lift the glass of
water to relieve his dry mouth for shaking so hard. She had an inkling
of what her son was going to tell her, but wanted to give him the time
and space to tell her himself. She knew he would, and was more than
happy to wait for Kyle to do it in his own time.
Though she encouraged the news, she internally worried that
Kyle was labelling himself too early, and wondered whether it was just
a phase. She knew homosexuality wasn't a choice, but she also knew
that teenage boys can be overcome by hormones at times and
wondered whether this was part of adolescence for a boy. Regardless,
outwardly she respected her son's lifestyle and supported it whenever
she could. At Kyle's behest, she kept it from her husband. Like Kyle,
she knew what kind of reaction it would almost definitely garner for
Eric to find out, so she kept it quiet. She ended up taking Kyle's secret
to her grave with her.
His mother's death had a huge impact on Kyle. Left alone with
his father, he felt a pressure to be what his dad wanted him to be.
Despite Kyle's obvious reluctance – and without Catherine to reign him
in a little – Kyle worried that the weekly footbal training sessions, and
the rigorous Tuesday night boxing sessions in the make-shift gym Eric
had built especially to turn Kyle into a man would get worse. Kyle could
handle the football stuff. He was no good at it, but his Dad hardly ever
stayed to watch him play. Coach Malick knew Kyle didn't want to be
there, and made no effort to force Kyle into playing, though often
encouraged him to get involved.
But the boxing training was harder to put up with. Not only did
Kyle have no interest in it, but hearing his Dad recite the phrase, “we'll
make a man of you yet”, both angered and saddened Kyle at once. Eric
honestly thought that was praise and encouragement, but to Kyle, it
was just more pressure to be someone he wasn't. To be his dad's ideal
version of a son.
“Do I have to go?” Kyle asked his father as they walked out of
the front door, dressed to the nines for his Aunt May's ninetieth
birthday party. “There's no-one there my age. It's just gonna be old
people and family we never see usually.”
“Yeah we have to go,” his dad said. “It'll only be a couple of
hours. You won't even see the time go. Besides, the Jameson's are
coming, bringing their son Jeremy. He's your age, I think. There might
even be some girls there.”
Kyle strapped himself in to the front seat and sullenly looked out
of the window as his dad drove away. It was his week off from college,
and he just wanted to go back home and play video games all
afternoon. They never saw their Aunt May, she was ninety years old
and lived quite a way from Kyle and his dad. But the family had
arranged a surprise birthday party for her and they had been invited.
They arrived at the hall half hour before Aunt May was supposed to be
turning up, and Kyle and his dad had been roped in to helping put together the
last minute decorations and putting the finishing touches to the food. There
weren't any girls his age and he was relieved. It dodged the awkward moment
where his dad would try and fix him up with somebody.
As they entered, they were approached by Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, flanked
by who Kyle could only assume was their son Jeremy. As soon as Kyle saw
Jeremy his eyes lit up. Jeremy was a nice looking guy, with beautiful dirty
blonde hair and, from the look of what was visible under his short sleeves, a
Kyle was no longer here under protest. He had no idea if Jeremy was
gay, but it didn't matter. He wasn't about to complain about spending a couple
of hours with him.
“Kyle, this is Mr. and Mrs. Jameson and their son, Jeremy.”
Kyle and Jeremy gave each other a nod and Mr. Jameson told Jeremy to
help Kyle put together the sandwiches.
Kyle and Jeremy walked away together into a kitchenette-like side room.
There was white and brown bread on the side and a list of the sandwiches to
be made. They set to work. Both remained silent at first, One of those
awkward silences when you have no idea what to say to someone you just
met. Kyle found himself glancing over at Jeremy every now and then and
sometimes Jeremy would catch Kyle's look and return it before Kyle quickly
looked away so as not to draw too much attention to his staring.
After a few minutes making sandwiches and putting them on plates,
Jeremy broke the silence.
“Here under protest as well?”
“Yeah,” Kyle said with a smile. “My dad forced me to come here. Don't
see the point, we hardly ever see her. She probably doesn't even know who we
are, anyway. You?”
“Pretty much. Apparently our parents used to hang out all the time
before we were born. I was told there'd be drink and at least one person my
age. Nice to have someone to talk to. Otherwise I'd have to stand with my
parents all night and listen to my dad tell the same corny jokes he always
“C'mon. Can't be that bad.”
“'What do you call a cow with no legs?'”
“I don't know...?”
Kyle let out a laugh, and Jeremy smiled back at him. It was amazing to
Kyle how quickly they found a level and though the chemistry was obvious,
Kyle still couldn't tell whether Jeremy was gay or not. Just when he thought
something he did gave it away, he'd do something else which shook Kyle's
confidence in his judgement.
The night progressed, despite Aunt May showing up ten minutes
late. Car trouble and traffic. But the surprise went off without a hitch
and she didn't – as Kyle and Jeremy jokingly suggested – have a heart
attack with the shock of everyone yelling “surprise!” as she was
wheeled into the hall. Kyle and Jeremy hit it off, and Jeremy became
looser and more prone to flirting with Kyle as they had more to drink.
Kyle kept his defences up in case it was just the alcohol, but he was
flirting back for sure.
It was coming close to the end of the night. Most of the guests
had left, but Kyle and Jeremy's parents were still chuckling away as Mr.
Jameson told another of his bad jokes. He'd been reeling them off
sporadically all night as if he'd just swallowed the world's worst joke
Suddenly, Jeremy pulled Kyle into the kitchenette, moved against
the wall so as to remain out of sight and kissed him. Kyle was pretty
taken aback by it but there was no way he was doing anything to
disrupt it. The kiss went on for a couple of seconds before Jeremy
“Wuh... wow,” Kyle said.
“Sorry. I couldn't help it. I just assumed you were gay. I just felt
this spark between us I only feel with other.. you know. Been trying to
hold it in all night.”
“Me, too,” Kyle said with a smile. “But my dad doesn't know. If he
found out, he'd kill me. So you can't...”
“Don't worry, Kyle. I won't tell if you don't.”
Kyle, his dad and the Jameson's all helped to clear up after the
guests had left and they'd said goodbye to Aunt May, who had fallen
asleep at regular intervals throughout the night. Kyle and Jeremy didn't
say much to each other in front of their parents, they just kept looking
at each other and smiling.
Jeremy's mother appeared to cotton on. When Eric and Mr.
Jameson had gone outside to have a smoke, she took the opportunity
to talk to Kyle.
“So, you and Jeremy hit it off?”
“Yeah, he's cool,” Kyle said nonchalantly.
“It's okay, Kyle,” she said.
“I've seen that look in Jeremy's eyes when he's fallen for boys
before. You've got that look in your eyes. I know there's something
there between you two.” Kyle just smiled, unsure what to say. “Well,
listen, if you ever want someone to talk to, your dad knows our
Mrs. Jameson went to walk away, but came back and whispered
to Kyle, “And don't worry, I won't tell your dad. I know how he gets.”
As they left, Jeremy said goodbye to Kyle with a fist bump and
slipped a note into Kyle's pocket. They shared a smile as Jeremy left
with his parents. As Mr. Jameson pulled away in the car, Mrs. Jameson
looked at Kyle through the window, smiled and winked at him. Kyle and
his dad then left as well.
Kyle spent the next few days thinking about Jeremy and the
amazing few hours they'd spent together.
He found it unbelievable how fate would see him find a possible
boyfriend at a party he didn't even want to go to because he didn't
think there'd be anyone there for him. Jeremy became Kyle's obsession
for what felt like every minute of every day. He remembered that
Jeremy had slipped a note into his pocket and rushed to the jeans he
was wearing that day and pulled the note out.
“See you at college. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? Ha!
He read it back to himself a few times, not believing the words
written on that piece of paper.
Kyle and Jeremy quickly became an item over the next few
weeks at college. Kyle's sexuality was known by just about everyone
but his father and that was the way he liked to keep it. To his dad,
Jeremy was just Mr. and Mrs. Jameson's son and now Kyle's best
friend. To Kyle, though, Jeremy was pretty much his world. And vice
Friday evenings were spent at Jeremy's under the guise that it
was video game night. Kyle would spend the night there, at first on the
floor in a sleeping bag but, as their relationship grew stronger,
eventually transitioned into sleeping in Jeremy's bed.
He enjoyed the liberal attitude of Mr. and Mrs. Jameson towards
their relationship. To them it was no big deal – natural – and as long as
it made their son happy, it made them happy. Mrs. Jameson's warm
smile and accepting attitude always reminded Kyle of his mother and
he found himself gravitating to her in that vain.
Mr. Jameson kept a bit more of a distance from Kyle. Mr.
Jameson felt uncomfortable keeping secrets from Eric. They'd been
friends for many years and, as couples, the Jameson's spent a lot of
time with Kyle's parents. In Mr. Jameson's mind, the less he knew of
the relationship, the less he'd have to lie about. Kyle understood. He
himself was having to carry the burden of the lie, and it was getting
harder with each passing week. He just wanted to be himself, to reveal
his relationship with Jeremy and for his dad just to be happy with it.
Pipe dreams. The more likely scenario was one of heartbreak and
rejection and he just wasn't ready for that.
“Hit it again, son!” yelled Eric Irvin.
It was Tuesday night. Tuesday nights were the one's Kyle
dreaded because it meant that he'd be forced into another boxing
training session by his dad. His dad did them in a bid to “tough Kyle
up” and make him – as he repeated constantly – into a “man's man”.
That was what Eric wanted. A manly son. And while Kyle wasn't exactly
effeminate, he was hardly Bruce Willis, either.
The session went pretty much as it always did. He feigned
interest in hitting a big punching bag while his dad shouted words of
encouragement and all Kyle could think of was Jeremy and as it went
on, as it did every week, Kyle became depressed by it. Depressed by
what had become of his life since his mother passed. When she was
alive, it was a little easier to cope because someone in the house
Now, though, it was just him and his dad.
“Hey, you,” said Jeremy from a few feet away.
Kyle was staring into space and at first, he didn't even notice that Jeremy
was standing there. Jeremy cleared his throat, Kyle looked up and smiled.
Usually he would manage to make a smile look somewhat convincing, but
today it just felt plastic. Fake. And having spent the better part of five months
together now, Jeremy could tell the difference.
“What's up with you?”
“Nothing,” Kyle replied in that way people do when they want to tell you
really but for some reason refuse to on the first go. He wanted Jeremy to
probe and Jeremy took the bait, even though he could probably guess what the
problem was. It was Wednesday morning, there was only one thing it could be.
“Ah, it's nothing,” Kyle responded as they took a seat on a bench just
outside the college entrance. He knew Jeremy wouldn't believe that and deep
down, he wanted him to probe. He wanted to get it off his chest. Jeremy shot
him a look which asked all his questions.
“It's my dad,” Kyle finally revealed to nobody's surprise.
“Still trying to get you to 'man up', huh? Why don't you just tell him. Get
it over with. I hate seeing you like this every week.”
“I can't, Jeremy. I just... I just can't.”
“Because I know how he'll react. Nothing good will come of me standing
up and telling him what's what. It just won't.”
“Bullshit,” Jeremy said abruptly, taking Kyle aback. “You say it won't do
any good, well how is this any better? I can't take that look on your face every
Wednesday morning. I can't take this constant back and forth you have on
whether to tell him or not. And you're wrong. Something good will come of you
telling him. We'd finally be able to be together properly, not just at college or
at my place. Unless you don't consider that good.”
“How could you even say that?”
“How else am I supposed to feel, Kyle? Way I see it, if you can't tell him
who you are – and be honest about who I am to you – maybe you're not ready
Jeremy got up, slung his bag over his shoulder and began to walk away.
“Jeremy, wait,” Kyle shouted after him.
“Save it. Let me know when you're ready to do the right thing.”
Jeremy's words replayed like a stuck record in Kyle's head all day. So
much so that he had trouble concentrating in classes, and had to be constantly
reminded by his professor's to stop daydreaming. Truth was, he couldn't. The
thought of losing Jeremy and the relationship they had terrified him. The more
he thought about it, the more the frustration and anger built up in him until
finally he resolved to do it. To tell his dad the truth.
But he wasn't doing it alone. He needed moral support. He needed
Jeremy there. He really didn't know what to expect out of his dad when he
broke the news, but all sorts of scenarios were racing through his head. At one
point he even caught himself thinking that Jeremy could be a witness should
his dad lash out and hit him.
He found Jeremy after college. Jeremy was distant with him and Kyle
understood why. He told Jeremy about his plans to come out to his father
tonight, and asked him if he'd be there for support and encouragement,
confessing that he didn't want to do it on his own.
“Of course I'll help you, baby.”
Kyle smiled with relief but the butterflies were gathering in his stomach,
making it flip over. He imagined that this was what it was like for a doctor
telling a family some tragic news about a loved one; that feeling of dread
knowing that you'd have to be the one to break the news they didn't want to
hear, as well as the unknown of how they'd react to it. His mind immediately
began to race to ways he could get himself out of it. Excuses he could make.
Then he looked at Jeremy's face and realized that he had to do it.
He had to go through with it.
When they got to Kyle's the house was empty. Kyle's dad was still at
work and tonight was the New Orleans game. His dad was hosting the viewing
party with a few work friends and Mr. Jameson, Jeremy's dad. At least, that
was the excuse Kyle gave for Jeremy coming back with him after school.
Jeremy had phoned his mother on the way home to let her know that
Kyle was planning to come out to his dad and asked her to be at home for
support if they needed to come back on short notice.
He led Jeremy up to his bedroom, slung their bags onto the floor and sat
down on the bed. Kyle slumped his head into his hands.
“I don't know about this... I don't know if I can go through with it,
Jeremy. What if he disowns me?” Kyle said, his voice muffled as it came
through between his fingers.
“Of course you can. I know you can. You just gotta be strong. Remember
what my mom said: you need a place to stay you come to ours. If he disowns
you, what was he really worth in the first place?” Jeremy leaned in and they
shared a passionate kiss, unlike any they'd had before. It was a welcomed
distraction for them both from what was to come. They both got so lost in the
moment that they failed to hear Eric's car pull up outside and he and his work
colleagues file out and into the house.
Downstairs, Eric and his friends, “Big” Mike Simpson and Jeff Gold, came
in with three or four large pizza boxes and a couple crates of beer. Jeremy's
dad wasn't there, he had to work late and had called Eric to cancel, not
realizing what Kyle and Jeremy had earmarked the night for.
Mike set the beer crates down on the table while Jeff went into the
kitchen to get sauces and sides for the pizza.
“Where's the kid, Eric?” asked Big Mike.
“Yeah, where is the little pansy, anyway?” Jeff added.
“Hey,” Eric snapped. “That's my boy you're talking about. Dunno where
he is, I told him to set the TV up before we got here. He's probably upstairs
sleeping. Fuckin' kid sleeps like it's going out of fashion.”
Eric threw the remote to Big Mike and told him to set it up while he
went upstairs to get Kyle.
Kyle's bedroom door swung open and immediately the boys broke their
For the first time in his life, Eric couldn't believe what he'd seen and he'd
seen a lot of stuff. But this had knocked him sideways. For several seconds, he
just stood in the doorway of Kyle's room looking at the two stunned – and
internally frightened – 19 year-olds whom he'd just caught kissing in his son's
bedroom. Kyle's mind was frantically racing for something to say, but he
realized that there was nothing to say. The game was up, and his dad now
knew the truth for better or worse. Part of Kyle was relieved that the truth
came out this way. It was a much quicker and more painless – he hoped – way
of the truth coming to light.
Kyle and Jeremy followed Eric down the stairs. He still hadn't said
anything and the silence was killing Kyle, he had no idea what his father was
going to do once he'd processed what he'd just seen. Eric stormed over to the
table and opened up a beer as Kyle and Jeremy stood at the stairs. Big Mike
looked up from stuffing his face with pizza and registered the colourless
expression on Eric's face.
“What's up, Eric?”
“Get out,” Eric yelled. Mike and Jeff both looked up at Eric, trying to
make out if he was joking or not.
“What?” Mike asked.
“Get out. Get the fuck out! Now!” Mike and Jeff put down their pizza and
beer, switched off the TV, got up and left. They were confused but not enough
to question Eric. They knew what his temper was like. Jeremy stood there, his
stomach doing the same kind of backflips that Kyle's was earlier and it wasn't
even his dad. His stomach dropped when Eric turned his attention to him.
“And you, you little queer. Get out of my house now.”
“No,” Jeremy said with a shaking confidence and a disbelief that he'd just
said no to Kyle's dad.
“No,” Jeremy repeated. “Kyle asked me to be here with him so I'm
“No you're not, ya fucking little homo.” Eric put his beer down, lunged at
Jeremy, grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and marched him to the door as
he tried to fight but to no avail. Kyle's pleas to his dad to leave Jeremy alone
fell on deaf ears and Eric opened the door and pushed Jeremy out, knocking
him onto the grass with a thud and a roll.
Eric slammed the door, picked up his beer which he was barely able to
hold steady as his hands shook with anger and confusion. He sat down, trying
to make sense of what he just saw. He was trying so hard to convince himself
that he was dreaming. Kyle stood looking at his dad, tears in his eyes. He had
no idea what to say. What could he say right now?
Suddenly, Eric broke the silence.
“How could you do this to me, Kyle? How could you do this to me?” He
took a swig of beer. “You were my little man. You were supposed to do me
proud. How could you do this to me?” Thoughts raced through his head. “It
was him, wasn't it? He forced you himself on you. He forced you to kiss him.
He forced you to do that. I'll fucking kill him.”
“No, dad,” Kyle said. “Jeremy didn't do anything. I'm gay, dad.”
“No you're not!” Eric leapt up and threw the beer can across the room. It
hit the opposite wall with force and the contents exploded out of it and spilled
onto the carpet. “My boy ain't no fucking faggot. If you've made the choice to
be a that, you can leave.”
“Choice?” Kyle said, starting to build up the courage as adrenaline rushed
through him. “You think I chose this? You think I chose to spend my teens
hiding this from you? Hiding what I am, knowing how you'd react if you found
out. Don't you think if I could've been what you wanted I would've been? It
would've made everything a lot easier. Being gay was never something I
Eric just sat there, trying to ignore any possibility that Kyle's passionate
monologue was the truth.
Tears began running down Kyle's cheek as he made his way up the stairs
and began frantically packing. He could hardly see, the tears in his eyes were
blurring his vision so he just grabbed anything he thought he might need and